Since Monday, the five professional magistrates who make up the court and their four alternates have been confined, without the possibility of leaving, in a “secure” barracks in the Paris region.
During their closed session, they will have to decide on the responsibility of the accused “in the sincerity of their conscience” and on the charges which weigh on each of them. “The law only asks them this single question, which contains the full extent of their duties: Do you have an intimate conviction?”, recalled President Jean-Louis Périès.
The judges will not join the courthouse until Wednesday to announce their fate to the fourteen defendants present at the trial.
“The hearing will normally resume on Wednesday June 29, 2022 from 5 p.m.,” announced Jean-Louis Périès before suspending the hearing Monday at the end of the morning.
The National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat) has called for life sentences against five of the 14 defendants present – six others are being tried in their absence – in this river trial, the longest in French judicial history after -war.
The most severe sentence provided for by French law, irreducible life imprisonment, which makes the possibility of release minimal, has been demanded of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the commandos who caused the death of 130 people in Paris and Saint-Denis on November 13, 2015.
Last to speak in court on Monday, Salah Abdeslam reminded the judges that it was “with the sword of the prosecution on his neck” that he spoke.
“Perpetuity is undoubtedly up to the facts, but not up to the men who are in the box,” he said in a pro domo plea.
“Public opinion says that I was on the terraces with a Kalashnikov to shoot people. Public opinion thinks that I was at the Bataclan and that I killed people. You know the truth is out there. ‘Opposite,’ said the 32-year-old Frenchman in a calm voice.
“I made mistakes, it’s true, but I’m not an assassin, I’m not a killer. If you condemn me for assassinations, you will be committing an injustice,” he said.
– “War on terrorism” –
Already on Friday, his lawyers Ms. Olivia Ronen and Martin Vettes, had rebelled against “excessive” requisitions.
How to punish on the same scale “the executing deserter at the end of the chain” and “the mastermind of the attacks”, had notably pointed out Olivia Ronen.
The Pnat also requested life imprisonment against the instigator of the attacks, the Belgian Oussama Atar, tried in his absence and probably dead in the Iraqi-Syrian zone.
“This trial must not be the continuation of the war against terrorism by other means. The prosecution asks you to definitively neutralize an enemy by condemning him to a social death penalty. You are basically asked to sanction Salah Abdeslam at the height of the suffering of the victims. It’s called the law of retaliation, in a modern and revisited version”, underlined Me Vettes.
In total, the prosecution requested sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment.
For two weeks during their closing arguments, defense lawyers have urged the court to resist ‘fear’ and not respond to a mass crime whose main perpetrators died delivering ‘exceptional’ justice .
“If, in the name of the emotion aroused by these crimes, we come to condemn the murderer, the accomplice of preparatory acts, the renter of cars and houses, as equals, then it will be necessary to admit that the rule of law has melted in shock and all that remains is a cardboard decoration”, said in particular Me Orly Rezlan, the lawyer of Mohamed Bakkali – against whom life imprisonment with 22 years of security was required.