Of Finnish nationality, Merle Immonen, who speaks excellent French but with a pronounced accent, tries to answer all the questions, including those sometimes vehement from civil party lawyers, but his five hours of interrogation n shed little light on her husband’s personality.
From the start of her testimony, Ms. Immonen, 54, wanted to proclaim her husband’s “innocence”. From then on, his testimony never ceased to confirm his intimate conviction.
The question seems unimportant as it seems far removed from the ram truck attack which claimed the lives of 86 people in Nice on the evening of July 14, 2016, but the court asks it anyway: where did the couple meet? ?
“In Nice, in May 2005”, affirms Mrs. Immonen who defines herself as “Lutheran Protestant”. Nice, really? On Wednesday, during his interrogation Mr. Ghraieb had provided the same answer.
Everything would be fine if during his detention (between 2016 and 2019), the 46-year-old Franco-Tunisian, who appears free under judicial supervision, had not told the personality investigator that he had met his future wife in the hotel where he worked in Sousse, Tunisia.
“Didn’t you meet your future husband for the first time in Tunisia?” insists President Laurent Raviot.
Mrs Immonen, motionless at the helm in a long pale pink sweater, closes her eyes, seems to be thinking and answers a shy “no”.
“I sense a hesitation in your remarks,” comments the president. “Maybe it’s another woman…”, mutters Mrs. Immonen.
– “It shocks me” –
Throughout her interrogation, she will continue to minimize the role of her husband. “Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel (the driver of the ram truck) was just an acquaintance, not a friend,” says Ms. Immonen. “He never came home.”
Childhood friends when they both lived in Tunisia, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel and Mohamed Ghraieb met in Nice in the early 2010s.
In addition to numerous telephone exchanges, the investigators noted that Mohamed Ghraieb had traveled on board Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s truck three days before the attack.
Mohamed Ghraieb is also suspected of having participated in the preparation of the attack by providing a “disused handgun” to the future killer of the Promenade des Anglais. The accused has always denied this and has constantly denied having knowledge of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s plans for an attack.
“I know my husband. Trafficking in arms, no,” says Ms. Immonen. If the couple bought a car from Mohamed Lahouaij-Bouhlel the day before the attack, it was only “because it was a good deal”, she said.
When the president reminds him that the investigators found in Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s cell phone, two SMS, in Arabic, dated January 10, 2015 from Mohamed Ghraieb’s phone approving the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, Ms. Immonen replies, “that doesn’t look like my husband”. “Is it really him who sent this message?” she asks.
“We met a person (Mohamed Lahouaij-Bouhlel, editor’s note) who helped us with a move, who gave us a bicycle saddle when we stole my husband’s and from whom we bought a car… and for that we are terrorists! (…) It shocks me”, indignantly Ms. Immonen.
But what will shock the civil parties is his response to a lawyer’s question: “As a hypnotherapist, have you received victims of the attack?”. Mrs. Immonen hesitates and answers “yes”. “Did you tell them that you were the wife of one of the defendants?” continues the lawyer. “No”, breathes the witness. A murmur of indignation runs through the courtroom.
The interrogation of Mohamed Ghraieb must end on Friday with the examination on the merits of his involvement in the attack.