PARIS (Reuters) - Fourteen suspected accomplices of the French Islamist militants behind the 2015 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris go on trial on Wednesday.
The perpetrators of the attacks and alleged accomplices include:
CHERIF AND SAID KOUACHI
Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said were in their thirties when they stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, 2015. Armed with automatic rifles, they killed 12 people, including some of France’s best-known cartoonists.
A two-day manhunt ensured. The brothers were killed when police stormed their hideout in a print works northeast of Paris.
Before becoming radicalised, Cherif was delivering pizzas and dreaming of rapping. His religious beliefs hardened after meeting Farid Benyettou, a salafist who ran a cell known as the Buttes-Chaumont group that sent a dozen youths to Iraq.
Police arrested Cherif as he prepared to fly to Syria en route to Iraq in 2005. He spent 18 months in jail.
Amedy Coulibaly shot dead a policewoman 24 hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack. A day later, Jan. 9, security forces killed the 32-year-old during a siege at a Jewish supermarket which claimed the lives of four hostages.
In a video later released online, Coulibaly said he had acted in the name of Islamic State. He said he had jointly planned the attacks with the Kouachi brothers.
The assaults were justified by French military interventions overseas, he said.
Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s partner at the time of attack, is one of three of the 14 suspected accomplices who will be tried in absentia. It is not known if she is dead or alive.
She fled to Syria via Spain and Turkey days before the attacks with two other defendants, Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine. Investigators say she joined Islamic State in the Iraq-Syria region.
Boumedienne is charged with membership of a terrorist organisation and financing terrorism. The charges carry a maximum of 20 years in jail.
Mohamed Belhoucine faces the most serious charge against any of the 14 defendants of complicity in terror and a maximum sentence of life in jail.
Investigators allege he helped Coulibaly prepare his attack, including by supplying the e-mail addresses of militant contacts, as well as the video in which he pledges allegiance to Islamic State.
ALI RIZA POLAT
Investigators allege that Ali Riza Polat, a 35-year-old Frenchman of Turkish origin, was aware of the attackers’ intentions and helped the three men amass their arsenal of weapons and munitions.
Polat is also accused of participating in a terrorist network and complicity in the crimes committed by Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers. He faces life in jail if convicted.
Peter Cherif, also known as Abou Hamza, is suspected by investigators of ordering the Charlie Hebdo attack, according to security and judicial sources.
Cherif will be called to testify in the case over the role of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the shootings.
Cherif fought with al Qaeda in Falluja, Iraq, and was detained in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and then in Mosul, where he escaped, according to a French investigation into the Buttes-Chaumont cell.
In the 2010s he spent time in Yemen until his arrest in Djibouti by French and U.S. agents in 2018.
He was transferred to France where he remains in prison awaiting trial on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
Reporting by Tangi Salaun; Editing by Richard Lough and Giles Elgood
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