Christmas market attack plotter jailed for 30 years by French court

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Christmas market attack plotter jailed for 30 years by French court

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A French court yesterday sentenced Audrey Mondjehi to a 30-year jail term for helping an Islamist militant who killed five people in a 2018 attack on a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg. — AFP pic

PARIS, April 5 — A French court yesterday sentenced Audrey Mondjehi to a 30-year jail term for helping an Islamist militant who killed five people in a 2018 attack on a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

The 42-year-old was the main defendant among four accused of helping Cherif Chekatt, who shot and stabbed shoppers at the market and was killed by police after a 48-hour manhunt.

Prosecutors said Mondjehi, who is of Ivory Coast origin, helped Chekatt obtain a gun for the attack in a square in front of Strasbourg cathedral on December 11, 2018.

Chekatt killed five people, including a Thai tourist and an Italian journalist, and wounded 11 people before he was wounded and escaped in a taxi.

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He was killed in a shootout two days later after hundreds of police and security forces launched a manhunt. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and a video of Chekatt pledging allegiance to the group was found at his home.

Mondjehi was found guilty of associating with terrorists but not guilty of complicity in terrorist murders as the court said he did not know what the gun was to be used for.

Mondjehi was one of four defendants in the trial held before a special court in Paris. He gave no reaction before being led away.

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Two other men were found guilty of playing a minor role in helping Chekatt and were given jail terms of up to five years. A third defendant was acquitted.

An 83-year-old man still faces charges for having sold the gun used in the attack to Mondjehi and Chekatt. But he is considered too ill to be tried.

Mondjehi was a former prison cellmate of Chekatt, who the court was told was a hardened criminal who had been on a list of security risks.

Prosecutors said the two had a close relationship in the months leading up to the market attack.

Regrets

“I think deeply and feel a lot of sadness for all the victims. All my life I will regret what happened,” Mondjehi told the court in his final statement on Thursday ahead of the verdict.

“I would never have thought that he would have done that, I never thought that he was radicalised,” he said.

While defence lawyers acknowledged Mondjehi had admitted to helping obtain the weapon, they insisted he was unaware of Chekatt’s plans and so should not be convicted of terrorism.

With the verdict, “the victims feel relieved,” said Mostafa Salhane, the taxi driver forced to take Chekatt away from the scene of the attack. Salhane sat in on nearly every day of the five-week trial.

“Justice has been served,” said the mayor of Strasbourg, Jeanne Barseghian, in a statement after the sentence was handed down. “I hope that the verdict can contribute to the process of mourning” for the victims, “even if their suffering will always be immense”.

This court sketch made on February 29, 2024 shows defendants Audrey Mondjehi (right), (left-right) Christian H., Stephane B. and Frederic B. during the 2018 Strasbourg Christmas market attack trial at the Paris courthouse. — AFP pic

This court sketch made on February 29, 2024 shows defendants Audrey Mondjehi (right), (left-right) Christian H., Stephane B. and Frederic B. during the 2018 Strasbourg Christmas market attack trial at the Paris courthouse. — AFP pic

The trial, which began in February, is the latest legal process over a number of jihadist attacks in France since 2015. Most of the actual attackers were killed, but a number of people have faced trials for complicity.

In December 2022 eight suspects were convicted over a 2016 attack in the Mediterranean city of Nice, when an Islamist in a truck killed 86 people.

In June 2022, 20 defendants were convicted over their roles in major attacks in the French capital in November 2015 when 130 people were killed. — AFP

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