The National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat) has demanded against the 32-year-old Frenchman the heaviest sentence in the criminal code: incompressible life imprisonment, which makes the possibility of release very small.
This sentence has only been pronounced four times for crimes committed on minors by men all recognized as “psychopaths in the psychiatric sense of the term”, notes Me Olivia Ronen, one of Salah Abdeslam’s lawyers.
The latter is “neither psychopath nor sociopath”, he is only a “executive deserter” who has “not killed”, insists the criminal.
Me Ronen returned at length with his colleague Me Martin Vettes on “the evolution” during the ten months of hearing of the one who had presented himself on the first day as a “fighter of the Islamic State”.
“He was able to leave this shell that he had conscientiously built in detention” and presented, in tears, his “sincere” apologies to all the victims, argues Me Ronen.
With this “excessive, cruel” sentence, the prosecution wants to “sanction him as a symbol”, vilifies the lawyer.
– “Slow death” –
This sanction is worthy of a “military tribunal” which judges “enemies” and not “defendants”, also says Me Vettes. “The prosecution asked you to permanently neutralize an enemy by asking you to condemn him to a social death penalty”, he insists.
“Punishing Salah Abdeslam commensurate with the suffering of the victims is the law of retaliation,” adds Me Vettes. His colleague paraphrases Georges Brassens: “To die for ideas of agreement, but it will be a slow death”.
In the box, Salah Abdeslam, white polo shirt with short sleeves, keeps his arms firmly crossed and does not take his eyes off his lawyers.
According to the public prosecutor, he is the “co-author” of the attacks at the Stade de France, on the machine-gunned terraces and in the Bataclan performance hall, considered a “single crime scene”. Only the assassination attempts on the police officers intervened during the assault on the Bataclan make him incur the incompressible life sentence.
The Pnat wants “to fit circles into squares”, protests Olivia Ronen, denouncing a “legal UFO”.
“Because potentially we could have been elsewhere, we must be condemned as if we had been there”, mocks the lawyer.
Her client, she underlines, does not dispute the “coaction” at the Stade de France, where he dropped off the three suicide bombers before going to the 18th arrondissement of Paris.
The “tenth man” of the jihadist commandos who killed 130 people in Paris and Saint-Denis never ceased, during the debates, to affirm that he had “given up” killing on the evening of November 13, 2015, refusing ” out of humanity” to activate his explosive belt.
– “Bite of conscience” –
For his lawyers, this “last minute recruit” from the jihadist cell, the only commando not to have gone to train in weapons in Syria, had “a bite of conscience”. This renunciation is an “essential data which will have to weigh on your decision”.
The prosecution was never convinced by Salah Abdeslam’s explanations at the hearing, and continues to favor the thesis of a malfunction of his explosive vest.
But for the prosecution, “doubt is systemic every time Salah Abdeslam opens his mouth”, plague Me Ronen.
One of the “big issues” of the trial was whether the main defendant, who had been silent during the six years of investigation, was going to speak.
“He has been talking for nine months,” exclaims Olivia Ronen. “This trial would not have been the same at all if Salah Abdeslam had remained silent, and there would have been a deep sense of collective failure if that had been the case,” says Martin Vettes.
The defense wants the court to take the time to “understand how one goes from the little guy from Molenbeek to the temporary work of the Islamic State, to end up as a member of a Daesh commando” (Arabic name of the Islamic State organization, editor’s note).
She also asks that the court ask itself a fundamental question: “Will this man one day be able to return to society, or is he permanently lost?”
“I present no danger to society,” assured Salah Abdeslam without blinking at the hearing.
Closing two weeks of pleadings for the defense of 14 defendants tried since September, Olivia Ronen launches to the court: “I do not ask you for courage. I ask you to apply the law with all the rigor that your conscience requires”.
The hearing resumes Monday at 9:30 a.m. with the last words of the defendants. The verdict is expected Wednesday at the end of the day.