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Trial begins of 14 suspects over Charlie Hebdo killings that shook France

Seventeen people were killed in 2015 during attacks on the satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris
The magazine has marked the start of the trial by reprinting controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked protests in several Muslim countries (AFP)

Fourteen suspected accomplices to the French attackers behind the 2015 assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris have gone on trial in the capital on Wednesday.

Seventeen people were killed during three days of bloodshed that shocked France. The killings marked the beginning of a wave of attacks across France that left more than 250 people dead.

The magazine has marked the start of the trial by reprinting controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked protests in several Muslim countries.

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On 7 January 2015, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a gun rampage in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly whose cartoons on race, religion and politics tested the limits of what society would accept in the name of free speech. 

Twelve people were killed and 11 others injured.

The following day, Amedy Coulibaly, an acquaintance of Cherif Kouachi killed a female police officer. 

On 9 January he killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

The three attackers were killed by police in separate standoffs.

In a video recording, Coulibaly said the attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of Islamic State group (IS). 

The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula claimed the Charlie Hebdo attack.

'Little helpers'

The trial got underway at a special court in the French capital and will over the next two-and-half-months hear from some 150 experts and witnesses.

Although the three assailants were killed by police, prosecutors have rejected claims that the trial will focus only on "little helpers" suspected of providing weapons or organisational support.

"It is about individuals who are involved in the logistics, the preparation of the events, who provided means of financing, operational material, weapons, a residence," national anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told France Info radio on Monday.

"All this is essential to a terrorist operation," he said, adding that relatives of the 17 victims and others would testify at the trial.

Travelled to Syria

Zineb el Rhazoui, 38, who quit her job as a journalist at Charlie Hebdo two years after the attack, told Reuters she hoped her murdered colleagues would be remembered as gentle, cultured human beings.

The alleged accomplices have been charged with crimes including supplying weapons, membership of a terrorist organisation and financing terrorism.

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Of the 14 defendants, three will be tried in absentia and may be dead. 

Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly's partner at the time of the attack, and brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine are believed to have travelled to areas of Syria under the control of IS just before the attacks.

Among those in the dock will be Ali Riza Polat who investigators allege helped the three attackers amass their weapons and munitions. 

He faces life in jail if found guilty.

The trial has been delayed by almost four months because of the coronavirus pandemic. 
In March, the presiding judge said France's lockdown measures had made it impossible to bring together "all the parties, witnesses and experts under the necessary sanitary conditions".