The French judiciary is again focused on Wednesday and for nine months on the issue of the jihadist attacks on November 13, 2015, when “suicide bombers” attacked the Stade de France stadium and gunmen opened fire on the balconies of cafes and the Bataclan concert hall, in the most violent attacks in France since World War II.
This out-of-the-ordinary trial, the largest in a criminal case organized in France, begins at noon in the historic Palais de Justice in Paris, amid tight security and a high terrorist threat.
“It is possible that there is a danger surrounding this trial,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told France 2.
Former Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told RTL radio that “a collective memory must be built by emphasizing once again the values of humanity and dignity” and allowing “the families of the victims to understand what happened.”
The Special Criminal Court will try until May 24 or 25, 2022, twenty defendants, including the French-Moroccan Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the commando group that carried out the attacks on the orders of the Islamic State, killing 130 people and wounding more than 350 in Paris and Saint-Denis ( suburbs of Paris) and left a great shock in France.
Ten other men imprisoned for the duration of the trial in prisons on the outskirts of Paris will be tried next to him in the defendant’s cage as they stand trial for participating in these attacks, which were carried out at a time when Paris was still traumatized by the January attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed all members of the Charlie Hebdo police force. Almost liberated an execution, and a Jewish food store.
Three accused will be at liberty under judicial supervision, while six others will be tried in absentia.
Twelve of the 20 defendants face life imprisonment.
French Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti confirmed Monday that this is a “historic” trial, after he visited the 550-seat hall, which was built specifically for sessions, describing it as a “judicial marathon.”
In addition to the size of the file, this trial is unprecedented in the criminal field in terms of its duration and the number of parties to the civil right of 1,800.
– Extensive investigation –
“A dive into the unknown,” says Artur Denovo, survivor of the Bataclan concert hall and president of the victims’ association Live for Paris. “How will it go over the course of nine months?”
Carol Damiani, director of the Victims Aid Society tasked with providing psychological support, says she has received “many calls” in the past days, adding, “We feel there is anxiety, tension.”
One of the first touching moments will be from September 28, when some 300 relatives and survivors will begin to testify.
Over the course of five weeks, they will take turns in court to talk about the details of that night of terror, the scars it left, and the personal tragedies mixed with collective fear.
It was 21:16 on Friday, November 13, 2015, when France sank in terror as a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Stade de France stadium during a friendly match between France and Germany.
Two kilometers away in the heart of Paris, an armed group of three men opened fire with automatic weapons on the balconies of cafes, while a third unit of three men also opened fire on the audience inside the Bataclan theater during a concert.
Shortly after midnight, police stormed the Bataclan theater, two attackers escaped and a five-day manhunt began. Ultimately, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a French-speaking jihadist at the top of France’s most wanted list, and an accomplice were killed on November 18 during a police attack on a building in Saint-Denis where they were hiding.
While France mourned its dead, closed its borders and declared a state of emergency, a wide-ranging investigation began, in close cooperation with the Belgian judiciary.
Four years of investigations made it possible to determine the bulk of the logistical aspect of the attacks, and the route taken by the units through Europe since their return from Syria, following the migrants’ routes, to their hideouts in rented apartments in Belgium and near Paris.
The investigation revealed a larger jihadist cell behind the attacks, the same as the attacks on the airport and metro trains in Brussels, which killed 32 people on March 22, 2016.
‘No exception court’ –
In the absence of Osama al-Attar, one of the “emirs” of the Islamic State who is suspected of plotting the attacks from Syria, and other senior leaders of the organization including the Fabian brothers and Jean-Michel Klein, who are believed to have been killed and are being tried in absentia, attention will turn to Salah Abdeslam and Muhammad Abrini, ” The man in the hat” who stopped blowing himself up at Brussels Airport.
Will the court, which will not question them before 2022, succeed in dispelling the last remaining points of ambiguity, starting with the role actually played by Salah Abdeslam, 31?
Abd al-Salam remained silent during his interrogation, and the parties to the civil prosecution expect from now on that he will maintain this position.
Attorneys for the accused, Olivia Ronen and Martin Fitts, warned that “the trial will be fraught with feelings, but the judiciary must distance itself from it if it wants to keep in mind the principles on which the rule of law is based.”
“We will ensure that this exceptional trial does not turn into an exceptional trial,” they affirmed.
Another defense attorney, Lea Dordei, said, “If it is essential that all parties to this trial be able to speak, as the victims need to express their suffering, we must not forget that this is primarily the trial of the defendants, who must be judged on the level of their complicity. In light of their path and personality.
The court will summon about 100 witnesses, including several French and Belgian investigators, and former French President Francois Hollande.
This will be the second trial in a terrorism case to be fully filmed for inclusion in the judiciary’s audiovisual archive, after the trial in the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish store.
© 2021 AFP
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