The final hearing of this river trial started in September, the longest in post-war French criminal judicial history, is due to start at 9:30 a.m. As provided by law, each accused will be invited to speak by President Jean-Louis Périès.
Almost silent during the investigation, Salah Abdeslam – the only member still alive of the commandos who caused the death of 130 people in Paris and Saint-Denis on November 13, 2015 – spoke a lot during the hearing.
The 32-year-old Frenchman was ambivalent, oscillating between arrogance when he proclaimed himself an “Islamic State fighter” on the first day of the hearing and compassion when he presented, with tears streaming down his cheeks, his “condolences and (his) apologies to all the victims”. He explained that he gave up using his explosive belt in a bar in the 18th arrondissement of Paris out of “humanity”.
“Whatever we say, this trial would not have been the same at all if Salah Abdeslam had remained silent. There would have been a deep sense of failure if that had been the case,” argued his lawyer Martin Vettes during the closing arguments.
Not convinced by Salah Abdeslam’s “equilibrist number” who systematically sought to “minimize the facts”, the national anti-terrorism prosecution (Pnat) requested incompressible life imprisonment against him, the heaviest sanction allowed by French law, which makes the possibility of release very small.
It is equivalent to a “slow death sentence”, denounced Salah Abdeslam’s other lawyer, Me Olivia Ronen.
Another defendant against whom life was requested, with a security period of 22 years, Mohamed Abrini, childhood friend of Salah Abdeslam. He also spoke a lot during the hearing, acknowledging that he was “scheduled for November 13”, but he remained stingy with explanations of his renunciation.
Monday’s hearing is the last opportunity to clarify his role. “He never ceased to doubt,” said his lawyer Marie Violleau last week.
– Will they talk? –
Will they come out of their silence?
Three other defendants against whom the Pnat requested life imprisonment – Osama Krayem, Sofien Ayari and Mohamed Bakkali – preferred to remain silent during the proceedings.
“Nobody is here to try to understand what happened and to get answers (…) This trial is an illusion”, Osama Krayem had indicated in January by the voice of his lawyer, Me Margaux Durand -Poincloux.
The 29-year-old Swede also refused to attend the hearings except when the civil parties spoke.
“I have already been sentenced to twenty years (in Belgium in 2018 for shooting at police officers, editor’s note). There, I risk life. And then I return to Belgium, where there will be a third trial (in September , for the attacks of March 2016, Editor’s note) with the same questions, the same themes, the same people. Am I going to defend myself like a dog to pick up 80 years behind? For guys like me, having hope is is dangerous”, said the Tunisian Sofien Ayari to justify his silence.
If it persists, the silence of Osama Krayem and Sofien Ayari – who, according to the prosecution, renounced for unknown reasons to commit an attack at Amsterdam-Schiphol airport on the same evening as the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis– will not allow this gray area of the trial to be lifted.
Mohamed Bakkali explained that his word had “no value”. “I am in a situation where everything is unfavorable (…) Whatever I do, everything will be considered a ruse,” he said in January, asserting his right to silence.
The floor will also be given to the nine other defendants appearing before the court since September 8 and against whom sentences ranging from five years’ imprisonment to twenty years’ imprisonment have been requested.
In addition to these fourteen men, the court judges six people by default, therefore five presumed dead in the Iraqi-Syrian zone.