İrem UZUN -TDO- Fourteen people have gone on trial in Paris on charges of assisting the gunmen who attacked the weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket five years ago, leaving 17 people dead. Most of the alleged accomplices are in court in Paris, however three of the them are believed to have disappeared in northern Syria and Iraq and will be tried in absentia. Some reports suggest at least two of them were killed in bombing campaigns against the Islamic State group (IS). All three remain the subject of international arrest warrants.
Charlie Hebdo, the radical weekly magazine, was well known for taking swipes at the French establishment and religion and has long drawn controversy. The magazine's editor at the time, Stéphane Charbonnier, better known as Charb, was among four celebrated cartoonists who were killed. Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad brought Charb death threats as well as 24-hour police protection prior to his death. On Tuesday, Charlie Hebdo announced plans to republish the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in its latest edition, which was released Wednesday. French President Emmanuel Macron defended the decision to republish the cartoons, saying people in France had the "freedom to blaspheme," CNN reported.
The proceedings, which are expected to last 49 days and are being recorded live for “the historical record”, began amid high security, and will relive the three days in January 2015 during the attacks. The court will hear from 144 witnesses, 14 expert witnesses and 200 interested parties, mainly the friends and family of the victims.
According to the BBC, the suspects are accused of having provided logistical support to the perpetrators -brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi, and their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly- and face charges of participating in a terrorist criminal association. If convicted, several of the defendants face sentences of up to 20 years. At least one faces a potential life sentence.