The 2015 attack left 12 people dead when two brothers swarmed Charlie Hebdo’s offices and gunned down 11 employees and a policeman nearby in Paris.
The shooters, Cherif and Said Kouachi, then carjacked a vehicle and fled. They claimed the attacks were in the name of al Qaeda.
The newspaper was presumably targeted for its history of publishing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Their offices had been unmarked and guarded by police for years prior to the attack because of the paper’s propensity to be a target for violence by disgruntled readers.
In the following days, additional attacks left five more people dead until three attackers were killed in shootouts with police.
In one attack, two days after the shooting at Charlie Hebdo and on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, Amedy Coulibaly stormed the Hyper Cacher supermarket, killing four hostages and invoking the Islamic State group as the Kouachi brothers took control of a printing office outside the French capital. The attackers died that day during near-simultaneous police raids.
It took days more for investigators to realize that Coulibaly was also responsible for the seemingly random death of a young policewoman the previous day.
“The trial will establish and confirm that the two attacks were coordinated. One was an attack on freedom of expression and the other was against Jews because they were Jews,” Francois Hollande, who was then France’s president, told RTL radio.
Those on trial in France’s terrorism court are accused of buying weapons, cars and helping with logistics in the January 2015 attacks. Most say they thought they were helping plan an ordinary crime. Three, including the only woman accused, are being tried in absentia after leaving to join the Islamic State.
Wednesday’s trial opened under tight security, with multiple police checks for the main courtroom and the overflow rooms. At nearby newsstands, the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo appeared, defiantly reprinting the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed cited by the gunmen who killed so many of the publication’s editorial staff.
Despite international condemnation of the religiously offensive caricature, French President Emmanuel Macron defended the paper’s freedom of the press.
“The president of the republic in France should never qualify editorial choices of a journalist, editorial staff — never,” he said. “Because there is a freedom of press that you are rightly so attached to, deeply. … There is also in France the freedom to blaspheme, which is attached to the freedom of conscience.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.