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14 Accomplices Found Guilty Of Aiding 2015 'Charlie Hebdo' Attacks

Nearly six years after Islamist extremists led attacks on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish market, a French court has convicted 14 people as their accomplices. The ruling handed down Wednesday found the defendants guilty on a variety of charges, ranging from membership in a criminal network to complicity in the shocking assault on the satirical publication in early 2015.

The three men identified as the principal attackers were killed in confrontations with police. The brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who slaughtered 12 people during their attack on Charlie Hebdo, were killed after a massive police manhunt ended with their being cornered them in a suburban print shop two days later. Their associate Amedy Coulibaly stormed a Paris kosher grocery the same day as the firefight at the print shop, killing four hostages before dying in police gunfire.

All told, 17 victims were killed in three days of chaos in or near the French capital.

But French authorities have long said that the trio did not act alone. Prosecutors asserted that the 14 defendants who received their verdicts Wednesday aided the primary assailants with money, vehicles and other logistical support. Eleven of the accused have been behind bars awaiting trial, while the rest were tried in absentia.

Among those who remain at large is Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly's former partner, who is thought to have fled France for Syria several years ago. Occasionally dubbed "France's most wanted woman," Boumeddiene was found guilty Wednesday of financing terrorism and playing a role in a criminal network. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The convictions represent a symbolic victory for French authorities, who had sought closure in a trial that spanned more than two months and included statements from scores of witnesses and interested parties, according to The Guardian.

"We need the truth and justice this trial would bring," Lassana Bathily, who survived the siege in the kosher market, told local media at the start of the trial in September. "We have been waiting five years for it. Without it, we cannot overcome this trauma and rebuild our lives normally."

The 2015 rampage followed Charlie Hebdo's publication of derogatory caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The satirical magazine had previously received threats over its content and even saw its offices firebombed in 2011 for printing an illustration of the prophet, which many Muslims consider blasphemous.

But those incidents paled in comparison with the terror attack carried out in January 2015, during which 10 of the magazine's journalists were killed, along with a security guard and a police officer. The Kouachi brothers eluded police immediately after the assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices. Later, as they were on the run, Coulibaly launched his own attack on the kosher grocery.

The attacks drew an outpouring of support for the controversial publication, as "Je Suis Charlie" ("I Am Charlie") became a rallying cry for those who saw the magazine staff as martyrs in the defense of free speech.

"Justice was served," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement released after Wednesday's verdict, naming the 17 people who died in the three days of bloodshed. "All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and their associates."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.