The case against the alleged accomplices in the terrorist killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel is being heard in Paris.
Surviving members of an Islamist terror unit believed responsible for the murder of French priest Jacques Hamel five years ago got underway in Paris on Monday.
Fr. Hamel’s throat was slit in the midst of a hostage situation in a church near Rouen, in the north of France, during a weekday morning Mass. The two assailants were fatally shot by police at the scene, but a man who is believed to be the “instigator” for the attack and three accomplices are before a Paris court this week.
The “instigator,” however, is thought to have been killed in a coalition attack in Iraq, but since his death has not officially been confirmed, he is being tried “in absentia.”
The other three appeared at the Court of Assize in Paris. They face charges of membership in a terrorist organization, which they have denied, said German news agency DW. Their lawyers have described them as “scapegoats.”
Fr. Hamel, 86, was assistant priest at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a working-class suburb of Rouen. He had served as a priest for 58 years and chose to continue his ministry even after his formal retirement in 2005.
On July 26, 2016, two men came into the church just after Communion had ended, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” The Islamic State group said the two were its soldiers and that the attack was in retaliation for France’s attacks on jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen said that he hopes the trial will shed light on the jihadist attack in his diocese.
One of those taken hostage at the church, Guy Coponet, 92, is expected to attend at least part of this week’s trial “to understand how these youths, barely out of adolescence, could commit such horrors,” his lawyer told the AFP news agency.
Prosecutors have said the three who are in court this week knew about the attackers’ plan, DW reported.