France sentenced Abdeslam, the main suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks, to life

Illustration of an intervention by Martin Vettes, Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer, last Friday in Paris.BENOIT PEYRUCQ (AFP)

France on Wednesday sentenced those accused of the November 13, 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis to prison terms ranging from two years to life. Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect and sole survivor of the commandos who killed 130 people and injured hundreds, was sentenced to life imprisonment, the maximum sentence under the French criminal code, as demanded by prosecutors, and it was rarely used.

After 10 months of proceedings and two and a half days of deliberations in a clandestine military headquarters, the judges determined that Abdeslam was a co-perpetrator of terrorist attacks against civilians and security forces. The court ruled that since he was not present at certain crime scenes, such as the Bataclan nightclub, he could not be held responsible for attacks such as those who directly fired or broke their explosive belts. He felt that the set of targets should be found as one and that there was only one crime scene. He didn’t even believe his reading that the terrorist surrendered at the last minute to have humanity activate his explosive belt. According to the referee, it was a technical fault.

The courtroom was packed for hours before arbitrator Jean-Louis Périès began hearing the reasons and sentences. There was interest after so many months in a process that left France in the presence of the worst attack in a period when jihadism abused this country like no other in Westeros. And perhaps it will allow some victims and the country to go through a new period of mourning. It had been announced that the verdict would come at 5:30 p.m., but it was not until after 8:23 p.m. that the referee entered the room and announced the verdicts. The 14 defendants present, the hundreds of survivors and family members, the lawyers listened with solicitude.

The sentences were the harshest – life imprisonment – for the main perpetrators: Abdeslam and the five Islamic State rebel terrorists (who can be killed in Iraq or Syria). They were a little softer than the prosecutors wanted for the rest: those involved in the Franco-Belgian cell which prepared the attacks; the members of the supply network who enabled the attack; the bogus Pakistani and Algerian refugees who did not come to participate; and the three men who helped Abdeslam return from Paris to Brussels, which was his home and the cushion of the jihadist cell. These three seemed to be free, and although sentenced to between four and eight years in prison, they can remain free after serving a prison sentence.

Mohammed Abrini, the terrorist who accompanied the cell to Paris but returned to Brussels by taxi in the dark after the attack, was sentenced to life imprisonment, contestable from 22 years in prison. Other accomplices were sentenced to 30 years in prison, reviewable once two-thirds served. The judges only downgraded the real charge against one of the defendants, Farid Kharkhach, from terrorist criminal association to criminal association for fraud by providing false passports to terrorists. Kharkhach was sentenced to two years in prison.

Dean of Terrorism Litigation

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The verdict marks the end of the most illustrious anti-terrorism trial in French history. It has been described as the oldest attack from a period when Islamist terrorism hit France. It lasted a whole school year, in a room built for the occasion at the Palais de l’Intégrité in Paris and with hundreds of victims, lawyers, journalists as well as five judges and three prosecutors, defendants on the bench ( and six courts in revolt ) and even one of the most prestigious contemporary French writers, Emmanuel Carrère, who made a report for L’Obs and EL PAÍS and will make a literary work of it in a copy entitled V13. It was all filmed for history, as was the fall 2020 trial relating to the January 2015 attacks on the scathing weekly Charlie Hebdo and the gourmet supermarket Hyper-Cacher, and the 1987 trial against thug Klaus Barbie.

For the victims and for France, the trial was a therapeutic moment. But it was much more than that, it offered a better understanding of the planning and execution of attacks, and insight into the minds of terrorists and their accomplices. Stammering and also listening: if there was a collective protagonist in this process, it is the survivors and relatives of those murdered in the Bataclan concert hall, on the terraces of the cafes in eastern Paris and near Saint-Denis . The evidence helped some move forward in the grieving process. Through a variety of different perspectives, they provided insight into those tragic hours and the experience of terrorism and its devastating war.

The macro process which ended on Wednesday went smoothly. There were no attacks or political interference from outside during those months. Inside, respect prevailed. In his memoir European Jihadism, jihadism expert Hugo Micheron contrasts the French approach after suffering traumatic attacks (and it could happen added, the gachupin after 11-M) with the reaction of the United States after 11-M. S, “which led to the intractable Guantanamo fiasco.” Trials like the 2015 attacks, on the other hand, “symbolically helped regain the initiative after jihadists set the tone for the attacks.” in court, the words, attitudes and justifications of the accused, while the stories of the victims are heard and meaning and knowledge are generated around these disasters.

The other protagonist was the main present pronounced, Abdeslam, 32 years old, Belgian of origin and of French race, member of the command team of the attacks (and brother of one of the suicide bombers). His argument in defense of himself and his lawyers was that he had not shot anyone and was not a prominent Islamic State militant anyway. His lawyers described him as a formidable environmentalist who channeled his rebellion and outrage at global injustices (particularly the 2011 trial in Syria) around radical Islam. They said they gave in that all the commando members who were shot were dead, they wanted to make their client an icon and give him an exemplary punishment.

With the end of the macro process, a chapter is closed, but not the item. In the fall, two other trials will relate to the Islamist attacks of the last mandate. On September 15, the trial of the attack of July 14, 2016 in Nice will open in Paris, when a terrorist driving a truck killed 86 people on the naval promenade. And on October 10, the litigation of the attacks of March 22 of the same year at Brussels Zaventem airport and Maelbeek airport, in which 32 people died, will be opened in Brussels. Several of those sentenced in Paris on Wednesday, including Abdeslam, will also be on the bench in Brussels.

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