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France has honoured Paty and vowed to step up the fight against Islamist extremism © AFP / Pascal GUYOT

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France to crack down on online posts after teacher’s murder

Samuel Paty was the target of a social media campaign that revealed his name and the address of his school © AFP/File / Pascal GUYOT

Paris, France, Oct 23 – France said on Friday it would crack down on social media posts that put people in danger by divulging their personal details, a week after the murder of a teacher targeted in an online campaign over Prophet Mohammed cartoons.

Samuel Paty was killed by 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov last Friday for showing cartoons of the Prophet to his class.

In the run-up to the murder, the parent of one of Paty’s students and a known Islamist radical had run a social media campaign against the teacher.

Prosecutors said their posts contained the teacher’s name as well as the address of the school, allowing his killer to find him.

Both have been charged with complicity in a terrorist murder.

– ‘Words or actions’ –

Prime Minister Jean Castex said a pending draft law defending secular values against radical Islam — known as an anti-separatism law — would now be amended to allow the prosecution of anybody who posts personal details online if this “threatens the life of another”.

Castex said he would submit the additions to the French cabinet in December.

Once voted into law, the provision will allow “the punishment of those who post personal information, thus threatening the life of a person, for example a teacher”, Castex said after Friday’s session of the French defence council.

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The bill will also allow the prosecution of those who “put pressure” on public servants, Castex said, “with words or actions as was the case against Mr Paty and the head of the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine”, the Paris suburb where the murder took place.

The lights of the Eiffel Tower in Paris were switched off on October 21 during a national homage to French teacher Samuel Paty © AFP/File / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT

Paty’s killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide in defence of free speech and the right to mock religion.

Seven people have been charged in connection with the murder and police have carried out dozens of raids against alleged Islamist sympathisers.

Castex said Friday that police had arrested 27 people over illegal online posts in recent days after raids on 56 homes.

Dozens more raids were planned, he said.

– Jury trial for priest murder? –

Separately on Friday, prosecutors in the murder four years ago of a priest by teenage jihadists asked for the trial of their alleged accomplices to be held with a jury, which in France is reserved for the most serious crimes.

Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest, had his throat slit at the foot of the altar in July 2016 in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

His two attackers were killed by police.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Jacques Hamel in Rouen’s cathedral on August 2, 2016 during the funeral of the priest © POOL/AFP/File / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

The national anti-terror prosecutors’ office requested Friday that four others should stand trial for complicity for murder and membership in a criminal association with terrorist intent, in a document seen by AFP.

The final decision on the trial format is up to the lead investigating magistrate in the case.

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One of the four, the alleged instigator of the attack and presumed IS recruiter, Rachid Kassim, is believed to have been killed in Iraq in 2017.

The killing of Father Hamel came less than two weeks after the Bastille Day attack that claimed 86 lives when a Tunisian extremist rammed a truck into crowds on a popular promenade in the southern city of Nice.

The previous year had seen attacks in Paris on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a Jewish supermarket and on the Bataclan concert hall.

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