PARIS – Protesters in France on Sunday attended a rally in support of freedom of speech and honoring a history teacher who was beheaded near Paris after discussing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad with his class.
On Friday, Samuel Pati was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, born in Moscow, who was shot dead by police.
Political leaders, associations and trade unions demonstrated Sunday in Place de la République in Paris holding placards reading “I am Samuel”, echoing the cry of “I am Charlie” after the 2015 attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. .
Demonstrators also gathered in major cities, including Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.
Meanwhile, French authorities say they have detained the 11th person after the murder.
Counter-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said the investigation into the murder on suspicion of terrorism was open. At least four of the detainees are members of the family of the perpetrator, who was granted a 10-year residence in France as a refugee in March, armed with a knife and an airsoft gun that fires plastic pellets.
His half-sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, Ricard said. He did not name her, and it was not clear where she was now.
The prosecutor stated that a text with a statement of responsibility and a photo of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. He also confirmed that the Twitter account under the name Abdullah A belonged to the suspect. It published a photo of the beheaded man a few minutes after the attack, as well as the message: “I executed one of the hell who dared to imprison Muhammad.”
The beheading upset moderate French Muslims. A group of imams in the Lyon region is holding a special meeting on Sunday to discuss what the group called “the horrific murder of our compatriot by a terrorist who did something irreparable in the name of uncertain faith.”
The attack provoked global condemnation. US President Donald Trump addressed the assassination on Saturday night from a political rally in Janesville, Wisconsin.
“On behalf of the United States, I would like to express my sincere condolences to my friend, the President of France (Emmanuel) Macron, where they just had a brutal, brutal Islamic attack yesterday – the beheading of an innocent teacher near Paris,” he said. It’s hard for France, and Macron is a great guy. “