The Paris courthouse, September 12, 2022 (AFP / Emmanuel DUNAND)
“My accused is called religion”. At the appeal trial of the January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, the lawyer for the satirical weekly posed Monday evening as an heir to the Enlightenment, slaying religious “fanaticism” and “rigorist” Islam Kouachi brothers.
When he stands up to the special Assize Court of Paris which has been retrying two defendants since September 12 for their alleged role in these jihadist attacks, Me Richard Malka immediately explains that his pleading will be unlike any other.
Lawyer for the publishing company of Charlie Hebdo, he has pleaded on “countless occasions”, “for fifteen years” and the trial of “caricatures”, on freedom of expression, the right to blasphemy. “What sense would it make today to come back to it?”, launches Me Malka in front of a provided audience.
In this room named Voltaire, within the historic courthouse in Paris, the lawyer takes up the words of the philosopher of the Enlightenment, this “slayer of religions”, this “free spirit” who said of Christianity that it was “+ the most ridiculous, absurd and bloodthirsty religion that has ever infected the world”.
“This is how we dared to talk about religions in the 18th century!”, exclaims Me Malka.
“Three centuries later”, he no longer wants “to plead the consequences of terror”, but his “cause” to pose “the diagnosis of a disease” and that the massacres committed in the name of Islam stop.
Because this “accused” whose name “we should never pronounce” has one, continues Me Malka with an ultra-fast flow: “You have to look him in the face. It’s called religion”.
– “Motive for the crime” –
Location map, sequence of the January 2015 attacks and tracking down killers in the Paris region (AFP / JM Cornu/V. Lefai/P. Defosseu)
“It’s not me who is inventing a fight for myself”, underlines the lawyer again, who invites us to remember the words of the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, repeated “three times” after their massacre at Charlie Hebdo: “+ We avenged the prophet Muhammad.”+
“This is the motive for the crime and it is explicit”, supports Richard Malka. The crimes of the Kouachi are “motivated by Islam”. “I’m talking about a vision of Islam, not Muslims. A dogmatic vision whose main victims are Muslims,” he adds.
And to say that this vision is “anecdotal”, “marginal” so as not to “dwell on it” is “false”, protests Me Malka who calls for it to be “denounced” and “fighted”.
In a pleading that increasingly resembles a theology course, the Charlie Hebdo lawyer plunges back into the origins of a “controversy” which opposed two currents of Islam 1,400 years ago and which does not has “never ceased”.
If this “thousand-year-old debate” is at the heart of the trial, it is because the “vision of Islam to which the Kouachi brothers subscribed is blasphemy”, a “vision that kills over the entire surface of the Earth”, from Nigeria to Pakistan, believes Me Malka.
Quoting verses from the Koran, he asserts: “there is no Koranic basis for killing for caricatures”. “All of this is pure madness fed by ignorance, where the other vision of Islam advocated reason fed by knowledge”.
For the lawyer of the satirical weekly, “the accusation of blasphemy, of Islamophobia” has become a “weapon of massive censorship (…) to prohibit any criticism of religion on the pretext of a hypocritical respect whose real name is fear”.
Police in front of the hyper hide near the Porte de Vincennes, January 9, 2015 in Paris (AFP / ERIC FEFERBERG)
Questioning this religion is however, assures Richard Malka, “the only way for the Islam of spirituality which enriches, pacifies, respects otherness and freedom, the Islam of the courageous policeman Ahmed Merabet (killed by the Kouachi brothers after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, editor’s note), triumphs over that of the Kouachi who exploits, terrifies and fanaticizes”.
“There is an Islam of enlightenment and an Islam of darkness whose main enemy is the Islam of enlightenment. There is an Islam of philosophers and an Islam of preachers (…). There will be no refuge outside of space and time, so let’s express ourselves”, concludes Me Malka.
The verdict is expected Thursday evening.