PARIS (AP) — A memorial march will be held Tuesday evening near Paris in homage to the history teacher who was beheaded last week, a day before a nearby town’s mosque will have to close its doors for the next six months.
A sign posted by the regional prefecture at the entrance of the Pantin mosque, northeast of Paris, details the closure and warns that individuals who violate the order will face a six-month prison sentence.
French police said 16 people remain in custody as part of the investigation into Samuel Paty’s beheading on Friday by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, who was later shot dead by police. Police officials said Paty had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his civics class, leading to threats.
Near the high school where Paty was teaching in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris, local elected officials, teachers and parent’s associations called on people to dress in white for the march at 6:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. EDT).
France’s lawmakers will also gather for a ceremony and a minute of silence on Tuesday at the National Assembly.
A French judicial official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to disclose information on an ongoing investigation that 16 people, including family members of the attacker, were in police custody Tuesday. Judicial authorities have already opened an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive. Authorities have identified the killer as Abdoullakh Anzorov.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin noted Monday evening that the Pantin mosque was being punished for having posted a message on social media denouncing Paty’s course.
Speaking on French television TF1, Darmanin said that the mosque’s leader “relayed the message which consisted in saying that this teacher should be intimidated” and mentioned the address of the school.
Press reports say the message that the Pantin mosque had relayed on social media came from the father of a student with a virulent complaint about the teacher. The father quoted his 13-year-old daughter as saying that Paty had asked Muslims to leave the classroom — a version that was contested by the teacher himself.
Authorities say the Pantin mosque has long had an imam following the Salafist path, a rigorous interpretation of the Muslim holy book. Pantin was where an 18-year-old Pakistani refugee three weeks earlier attacked and injured two people with a meat cleaver lived.
Darmanin had previously said authorities were also looking into about 50 associations suspected of encouraging hate speech and the issue will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. He told TF1 on Monday that authorities have closed 356 locations where people were radicalized since President Emmanuel Macron took office in 2017.
Macron has asked for quick, concrete action in the case. Referring to Islamist extremism that authorities say has created a parallel world that counters French values, Macron is waging war against what he calls “separatism.”
At the courtyard of La Sorbonne university in Paris, a national memorial event will be held Wednesday evening to pay tribute to Paty. The centuries-old site is a symbol of knowledge and education and of the “spirit of Enlightenment” since it has always been “a forum to express ideas and freedoms,” the French presidency said.
Investigators are trying to learn how Anzorov, who lived in the Normandy town of Evreux, set up his encounter with Paty, whether there was complicity and whether the beheading was premeditated.
Five students are among the 16 being held, one who allegedly took money from the killer.
By SYLVIE CORBET and ELAINE GANLEY, Associated Press
Nicolas Garriga in Pantin and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.