Endri Elezi, who only stayed a few weeks in Nice in the summer of 2016, is accused of having participated in the supply of two weapons.
Among them a pistol that will be sold on July 12 to Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the Tunisian author of the ram-truck massacre which left 86 dead and more than 400 injured on the Promenade des Anglais.
It was with this semi-automatic pistol that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel opened fire from his truck, without hitting anyone, before being shot dead by the police.
At the helm, Endri Elezi explains that he arrived in France in early June 2016 at the invitation of a cousin, Adriatik Elezi, who said he could help him find work. “I wanted to change my horizon,” he justifies.
Since adolescence, the young man has been going back and forth between Albania and Greece, Italy or Belgium, working as a seasonal worker in agriculture or as a house painter. He also admits having been imprisoned seven months in Belgium after a burglary.
The tapping of this cousin’s phone shows that he “seems to live in France from burglaries”, observes the first assessor, Emmanuelle Bessone.
“I didn’t know. We saw each other, we had coffee, but I didn’t know what he was actually doing,” says Endri Elezi, in a black track jacket and gray pants.
The young man disputes any involvement in the transaction around the gun: “we never talked about weapons together”.
Contrary to what his cousin said during the proceedings, he also claims not to know Artan Henaj, a co-defendant at the trial, to whom the gun will be given and who will sell it to the perpetrator of the attack through a another defendant, Ramzi Arefa.
“I don’t know what to tell you, I didn’t know him before. If I had known him, I would have told you,” says the accused.
– “In tears” –
Visibly stressed, his eyes reddened, he answers questions in Albanian in a few words, in a plaintive voice.
He only admits to having gone to look for a bag containing an assault rifle, hidden in a wooded area in the heights of Nice, on instructions from his cousin. This weapon without ammunition will be found in the cellar of the building where Ramzi Arefa lived, two days after the attack.
On July 17, the day of Artan Henaj’s arrest, Endri Elezi and his cousin changed telephone lines.
“You know full well that one of the weapons you carried is likely to have been used in the attack, since that is what Adriatik Elezi says to justify this change of line”, tries the president of the court, Laurent raviot.
New denial of the accused. “At the time I didn’t even know who had been arrested. He was the one who brought me” the new phone chip.
Adriatik Elezi, also indicted in the investigation into the attack, committed suicide in June 2018 in detention.
According to Endri Elezi, his departure from Nice for Italy at the end of July 2016 is also not linked to the fear of being arrested after the attack. “No, I never thought of such a thing,” he says, explaining his departure by the lack of stable work in France.
He will be arrested in early 2021 in Italy, where he had just settled with his wife and son. Imprisoned for a few months in France, he has been free under judicial supervision since November 2021.
At the end of his interrogation, the accused, who faces five years in prison, collapses in tears on the bench.
On Tuesday, the court will read the statements of the eighth defendant, Brahim Tritrou, tried in his absence. This 37-year-old Tunisian, accused of having acted as an intermediary between Ramzi Arefa and Artan Henaj, is currently being held in Tunisia, according to his companion.
On Wednesday, the pleadings of the civil parties begin.