Charlie Hebdo trial adjourned again as main accused still showing COVID-19 symptoms

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A Paris court on Monday ordered that the trial of suspects in the January 2015 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo weekly and a Jewish supermarket again be adjourned, as the main accused was still showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Presiding judge Regis de Jorna, who had announced last week that hearings would resume following a two week adjournment after three suspects tested positive for COVID-19, said he hoped hearings could start again next week.

Ali Riza Polat, the only one of the accused to be tried for “complicity” in terrorist crimes, is still suffering from “digestive issues” that mean he cannot appear, according to a medical report read out in court.

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His condition does not need hospitalization but if needed an endoscopy could be ordered, said the report. De Jorna said the trial would resume on November 23, so long as Polat had recovered.

The new delay further sets back the timetable for the trial and it is unclear when the verdict – which was supposed to have been handed down last week – will be announced.

It had been rescheduled for November 27 but anti-terror prosecutors still need to give their summing up before defense lawyers are heard.

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Fourteen suspects – including three in absentia – have been standing trial since September over the January 2015 massacre of staff at Charlie Hebdo, the killing of a policewoman and the deadly hostage siege at the Hyper Cacher market which left a total of 17 dead.

All are accused of giving various degrees of logistical support after the perpetrators were killed in the wake of the slaughter.

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Criticizing “a chaotic procedure” in recent days, a lawyer for victims at Hyper Cacher, Elie Korchia, said that it would be “perfectly normal” for all the accused to be tested, “to be certain that next Monday, as we all hope, this trial can resume in normal health conditions.”

It was meanwhile “out of the question” that the trial can resume without Polat present, said his lawyer Isabelle Coutant Peyre, describing his health situation as “extremely serious.”

She said that with the pandemic still in full swing “it was inevitable this type of disaster – for the accused and my client in particular – would occur.”

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To mark the start of the trial, Charlie Hebdo defiantly republished the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had angered Muslims worldwide.

France is on its highest security alert after a spate of attacks in the last weeks blamed on “Islamist” radicals, including a stabbing outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices, the beheading of a teacher and a killing spree inside a Nice church.

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