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'Charlie Hebdo' trial adjourned again as main accused unwell

The new delay further sets back the timetable for the trial and it is unclear when the verdict - which was supposed to have been handed down last week - will be announced.

A woman walks past a painting by French street artist and painter Christian Guemy, known as C215, in tribute to members of 'Charlie Hebdo' newspaper who were killed by jihadist gunmen in January 2015, in Paris, on 31 August 2020. Picture: AFP

PARIS - A Paris court on Monday ordered that the trial of suspects in the January 2015 attacks on the _Charlie Hebdo _weekly and a Jewish supermarket again be adjourned, as the main accused was still showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Presiding judge Regis de Jorna, who had announced last week that hearings would resume following a two-week adjournment after three suspects tested positive for COVID-19, said he hoped hearings could start again next week.

Ali Riza Polat, the only one of the accused to be tried for "complicity" in terrorist crimes, is still suffering from "digestive issues" that mean he cannot appear, according to a medical report read out in court.

His condition does not need hospitalisation but if needed an endoscopy could be ordered, said the report. De Jorna said the trial would resume on 23 November, so long as Polat had recovered.

The new delay further sets back the timetable for the trial and it is unclear when the verdict - which was supposed to have been handed down last week - will be announced.

It had been rescheduled for 27 November, but anti-terror prosecutors still need to give their summing up before defence lawyers are heard.

Fourteen suspects - including three in absentia - have been standing trial since September over the January 2015 massacre of staff atCharlie Hebdo, the killing of a policewoman, and the deadly hostage siege at the Hyper Cacher market which left a total of 17 dead.

All are accused of giving various degrees of logistical support after the perpetrators were killed in the wake of the slaughter.

Criticising "a chaotic procedure" in recent days, a lawyer for victims at Hyper Cacher, Elie Korchia, said that it would be "perfectly normal" for all the accused to be tested, "to be certain that next Monday, as we all hope, this trial can resume in normal health conditions."

It was meanwhile "out of the question" that the trial can resume without Polat present, said his lawyer Isabelle Coutant Peyre, describing his health situation as "extremely serious".

She said that with the pandemic still in full swing "it was inevitable this type of disaster - for the accused and my client in particular - would occur."

To mark the start of the trial, _Charlie Hebdo _defiantly republished the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had angered Muslims worldwide.

France is on its highest security alert after a spate of attacks in the last weeks blamed on Islamist radicals, including a stabbing outside Charlie Hebdo's former offices, the beheading of a teacher, and a killing spree inside a Nice church.

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