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France's virus lockdown delays Charlie Hebdo attack trial

A mural depicting victims of the deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper near its offices in Paris.
A mural depicting victims of the deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper near its offices in Paris. FRANCOIS GUILLOT AFP/File
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Paris (AFP)

The trial of 14 people accused of helping the jihadist gunmen who attacked the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and other Paris targets in January 2015 has been postponed because of France's coronavirus lockdown, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The presiding judge for the trial, originally set to open on May 4, said the strict home confinement rules made it impossible to bring together "all the parties, witnesses and experts under the necessary sanitary conditions," according to a court order seen by AFP.

No new date has been set, although the national anti-terrorism prosector's office said it would probably be pushed back until next autumn.

Seventeen people were killed over three days in and around Paris in the January 2015 attacks, beginning with the massacre of 12 people at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo by Cherif and Said Kouachi on January 7.

Over the following two days, a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, shot dead a young policewoman before killing four people at a Jewish supermarket.

All three gunmen, who had claimed allegiance to jihadist groups, were killed by police.

The 14 accused are suspected of having provided logistical aid to the attackers.

Eleven of the suspects are in detention, but three will be tried in absentia, including Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly's girlfriend, who authorities say left for the Iraq-Syria region during the attacks.

Also on the run are brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, who also fled the country just before the attacks.

Unconfirmed reports have said all three were killed during the fierce bombing campaigns by coalition forces to defeat Islamic State jihadists in their so-called Syrian "caliphate."

Prosecutors said earlier this month that the trial will be filmed -- normally forbidden in France, but allowed in cases deemed essential for the country's judicial archives.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre sparked a series of jihadist attacks in French, including "lone wolf" killings by people said to be inspired by the Islamic State group, that have since claimed more than 250 lives.

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