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Paris court announces verdicts after 2015 marathon assault trial

#Paris #court #announces #verdicts #marathon #assault #trial

After the largest trial in modern French history, judges will on Wednesday hand down verdicts on 20 men charged with the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

The much-anticipated conclusion of the court case, which began in September 2021, will conclude nine months of hearings and a six-year, multi-state investigation whose findings span more than a million pages.

Attention will focus on the sole surviving member of the Islamic State group’s jihadist team who besieged the French capital on a Friday night, attacking the national sports stadium, bars and the Bataclan concert venue.

Salah Abdeslam, 32, was arrested by police four months after the bloodbath after he removed his suicide belt the night of the attack and fled back to his hometown of Brussels, where many of the extremists lived.

“I went to prison when I was 26. I’m not perfect, I’ve made mistakes, that’s true. But I’m not a killer, I’m not a killer,” he said.

“If you convict me of murder, you are committing an injustice,” the Frenchman of Moroccan origin added in his closing argument in the specially built hall of the historic court complex in central Paris.

After initially admitting to being an Islamic State (IS) fighter, the former smoking partygoer tried to convince the court that he refused to blast himself “from humanity”.

The court has heard that his belt was indeed defective and that he wrote afterwards that he regrets not having attended.

Prosecutors have condemned his tearful apologies and pleas for clemency in front of the five judges as a cynical ploy to avoid the life sentence prosecutors have been asking for.

Life sentences, which offer a slim chance of parole after 30 years, have only been handed out four times since they were introduced in 1994.

“Those who have committed these heinous crimes are nothing more than despicable terrorists and criminals,” prosecutor Nicolas Le Bris said in his closing statement in mid-June.

– trauma –

The November 2015 attacks deeply traumatized France, with the choice of targets – music and sports venues, the capital’s famous bars and cafes – and the type of violence seemingly designed to cause maximum shock.

In one case, the court heard a recording of gunmen taunting people trapped in the Bataclan as they fired Kalashnikov machine guns at them from a balcony above them.

The massive loss of life marked the beginning of a cruel and violent period in Europe, as ISIS prompted numerous attacks across the continent, prompting Paris to intensify its military campaign to defeat extremists in Syria and Iraq.

The verdict “won’t heal the wounds, visible or invisible. It won’t bring the dead back to life, but it will at least ensure that justice and the rule of law have the last word here,” said another prosecutor, Camille Hennetier said earlier this month.

In the absence of the remaining attackers – nine out of ten blew themselves up or were killed by police – the accused, along with Abdeslam, are suspected of having offered logistical support or planning other attacks.

One of them, Mohamed Abrini, has admitted driving some of the attackers from Paris to the capital and explained how he was supposed to take part, but has backed down.

The 37-year-old initially justified IS violence in the fight against Western countries, but later apologized to the victims.

“I realize what happened is disgusting,” said the childhood friend of Abdeslam, who was due to stand trial in 2016 over multiple attacks in Brussels, where he is suspected of pushing a trolley laden with bombs into the city’s main airport to have.

Six of the 20 people on trial in Paris are missing, including the commander in chief, a senior IS supporter from Syria, and veteran jihadist Oussama Atar, who is believed to be dead.

– therapy –

Much of the 149 days of hearings since September have been devoted to testimonies from survivors and victims, giving the proceedings at times the feel of a mass therapy session that brought comfort to many participants.

“When you participate, you hear everyone else’s stories of what they suffered, what they lost,” David Fritz Goeppinger, a hostage at the Bataclan, recently told AFP.

Arthur Denouveaux, leader of Life for Paris’ survivor group, said that after nine grueling months, people are ready for the end.

“I’m not that interested in the verdicts themselves. It’s really about saying, ‘This is it. It’s behind us. The justice system has done its job, we can move on,'” he told AFP.

Verdicts are expected from 17:00 (1500 GMT).

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#Paris #court #announces #verdicts #marathon #assault #trial

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