Charlie Hebdo suspect begins prison sentence after 7 years on the run
Peter Cherif is believed to have trained the two men who carried out the 2015 attack
A fugitive suspected of helping to organise the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo has finally begun a five-year prison sentence handed down to him in 2011.
Peter Cherif, who was arrested in Djibouti earlier this month, was a close associate of the two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed 12 people during the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris.
The brothers, who targeted the satirical magazine because of its depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, were killed two days later during a shootout with police.
Cherif is believed to have met and trained the Kouachi brothers in Yemen, where he fled after disappearing during the last day of his 2011 trial in France for fighting with Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The 36-year-old French national has been on the run until his arrest on December 16. He was expelled to France a week later where he is facing new terrorism charges.
Cherif is accused of "criminal association" with a terrorist group. France’s defence minister said he had played an “important role in organising” the Charlie Hebdo attack but did not give any further detail.
Also known as Abu Hamza, Cherif was one of France’s most wanted jihadists. He converted to Islam in the 1990s and was first arrested in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 by US forces for fighting with Al Qaeda. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but escaped in 2007, reportedly fleeing to Syria.
Cherif surrendered to French authorities in 2008 before fleeing again during his trial. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment in absentia for being a member of a terrorist organisation.
Updated: December 27, 2018 03:20 PM