French intelligence agents allegedly changed the date in a document in an attempt to remove evidence about their blunders that allowed Islamic State supporters to kill French priest Rev. Jacques Hamel inside his parish in 2016.
French prosecutors have opened a criminal inquiry into the allegation that the agents post-dated a document as a cover-up, according to The Times, which quoted French news website Médiapart as saying the agents were more concerned about their careers than tracing terrorists.
The inquiry will be conducted by the "police of the police," Inspection Generale de la Police Nationale, according to Sputnik News, which also said a lawyer representing some of the attack survivors has reportedly asked to declassify all the documents related to the case.
On July 26, 2016, Islamic State jihadists Adel Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Petitjean stormed the church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy and slit the throat of the 85-year-old priest. The two were shot dead by police as they left.
Five days before the killing, an agent from the Paris Police Prefecture Intelligence Unit stumbled upon a message in the encrypted channel Telegram in which someone boasted that "I haven't been uncovered."
The sender of the message, with the username @Jayyed, was later identified as Kermiche, who also posted a video on the channel saying he had given lessons in a mosque in the town in Normandy advising his followers to "go into a church and take out everyone."
The agent informed senior officials about Kermiche, advising they inform the General Direction of Interior Security, the French chief intelligence agency. This information was not sent.
After the church incident, the agent was asked to post-date his notes and erase the browser history on his computer. However, the document with the original date on it wasn't deleted from one of the computer files.
The slaying of the priest shook all of France, including many in the Muslim community.
Hamel's church had donated land to Muslims to build a mosque, a senior Catholic cleric said days after the priest was murdered.
"Church authorities facilitated the giving of land beside his church to local Muslims to build a mosque, and they were given use of the parish hall and other facilities during Ramadan," Father Mark Ephrem Nolan, prior of the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross near Rostrevor, said, referring to the Church of the Gambetta, where Hamel served.