Moroccan Man Arrested in Spain for Praising France Beheading

October 31, 2020 Updated: October 31, 2020

Spanish police have arrested a Moroccan man for praising the beheading of a French schoolteacher earlier this month and inciting more Islamic terrorist attacks.

The arrest follows a terror attack on Thursday at a church in the southern French city of Nice, where a 21-year-old Tunisian man, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” beheaded an elderly woman and killed two other people.

Police block the access to the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption
Police block the access to the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice on Oct. 29, 2020. (Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images)

The Moroccan man, who was not named, was detained on Friday after he posted messages on social media in support of the Oct. 16 murder of Samuel Paty, Catalan regional police said on Saturday.

Samuel Paty was beheaded in broad daylight outside his school in a middle-class Paris suburb by a teenage Chechen refugee, who had sought to avenge his victim’s use of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression. Police shot the attacker dead.

“Police officers from the Mossos d’Esquadra have arrested a man of Moroccan nationality, for an alleged crime of exaltation of terrorism and a crime of incitement to commit terrorist crimes,” Catalan police said on Twitter.

The coffin of slain teacher Samuel Paty
The coffin of slain teacher Samuel Paty is laid in the courtyard of the Sorbonne university during a national memorial event, in Paris, France, on Oct. 21, 2020. (Francois Mori/Pool via Reuters)

The suspect appeared before a court in Barcelona on Saturday and was released on condition he surrender his passport and appear before magistrates every 14 days, police said.

Police will guard French schools in the Spanish region of Catalonia from next week.

The publication or display of images of Muhammad, which Muslims see as blasphemy, has triggered several terrorist attacks in France.

After cartoons depicting Muhammad were published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, its editorial offices were attacked in 2015 by gunmen who killed 12 people.

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, second left, speaks in front of a high school in Conflans Sainte-Honorine, on Oct.16, 2020 (Abdulmonam Eassa, Pool via AP)

Last month, as a trial of 14 alleged accomplices in the 2015 attack opened in Paris, the magazine republished the cartoons to underscore the right of freedom of expression.

On Sept. 25, a Pakistani man stabbed two people outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices in Paris.

Following the gruesome murder of Samuel Paty on Oct. 16, the Muhammad caricatures have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the French history teacher.

President Macron has vigorously defended the cartoons as protected under the right to free speech, angering many Muslims and triggering protests in multiple Muslim countries.

Bangladesh France cartoon
Muslims hit the effigy depicting the French president Emmanuel Macron after Friday prayer as they take part in a protest calling for the boycott of French products and denouncing Macron for his comments over Prophet Muhammed’s caricatures, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Oct. 30, 2020. (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)

Islamic terrorist groups ranging from the Taliban in Afghanistan to Hezbollah in Lebanon have condemned Macron’s defense of the cartoons.

Earlier this week, France’s national police called for increased security at religious sites around the All Saint’s holiday this weekend.

On Tuesday, the areas around the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in central Paris were briefly evacuated after a bag filled with ammunition was discovered.

Following Thursday’s Nice attack, French Interior Minister Gerald Damarnin said France was engaged in “a war against an enemy that is both inside and outside.”

“We need to understand that there have been and there will be other events such as these terrible attacks,” he said on Friday.

Reuters contributed to this report.