“It’s not important”, “it doesn’t tell me anything” or even “I didn’t understand anything”, often replied the 46-year-old accused when faced with specific questions from the president of the special assize court in Paris. , Laurent Raviot.
His links with Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the author of the ram truck attack that killed 86 people on the Promenade des Anglais on July 14, 2016? “He was an acquaintance among others (…) He was not someone important to me”, maintains the accused who appears free under judicial supervision after three years of pre-trial detention.
The president pouts. The investigation revealed that the two men who had known each other in Tunisia before meeting in Nice in the early 2010s had very frequent telephone contact. Nearly 1,300 the year before the attack.
On the evening of July 14, Mr. Ghraieb tried ten times to contact Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. “Why?”, wants to know the president. “To find out when I could get the second key to the car we had just bought him,” replied the accused. “Do you think we’re going to believe that?”, the judge annoys.
“What were you talking about?” insists Mr. Raviot. “On the sport, the food, the salsa that he practiced … a lot of jokes”, answers Mr. Ghraieb who, at the material time, was a night watchman in a hotel in Nice.
– “Nothing seen coming” –
The accused had spontaneously presented himself to the police at the end of the afternoon the day after the attack. If he admitted to having boarded the truck which will be used for the attack three days before the facts – photos attest to this – he repeated to the court that he had never been aware of the planned attack. .
“Were you talking about the Islamic State (IS)?” Asked the president. “Once, when leaving the beach, he asked me what I thought of IS,” recalls the defendant. “And then…”, insists the president. “I said to him: Why are you talking about that? It’s shit”. I said to him: Come on, get out! and he left”.
Did Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel watch videos of IS abuses, as you told the investigators?, continues the president. “The investigators did not understand well. He was talking to me about combat sports videos and a lot of porn sites, not execution videos,” replied the accused.
Why did you go on the Promenade, filming yourself, “looking happy”, on the morning of July 15 when you left work?, continues Mr. Raviot. Answer: “I happened to go home by taking this path. It was not thought out (…) I regret it when I see how it was misinterpreted”.
When the president questions him about a message, in Arabic, welcoming the January 2015 attacks from his cell phone and found on Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s phone, Mr. Ghraieb categorically denies being the author.
“I never wrote that. I had to lend my phone to someone and I don’t know what he exchanged with Lahouaiej-Bouhlel”, he explains laboriously. During the investigation he had mentioned the name of a certain Jamal Abbas of whom no trace was found by the investigators.
And the documents downloaded to his computer with photos of the Kouachi brothers, Salah Abdeslam and other leaders of the EI organization? “I haven’t downloaded, exchanged, and nobody sent me things like that. Just look at news sites to come across these photos, and it can leave traces in the computer, it’s everything,” he explains.
As for the suspicions of having sought to provide a weapon to Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the accused defends himself categorically: “Never in life”. “The truth is, I didn’t see it coming.”
From Tuesday the court will look into the case of Chokri Chafroud, a 43-year-old Tunisian, in detention since 2016, also prosecuted for terrorist criminal association.