Paris – The Islamist attacks of November 13, 2015 deeply traumatized France and Europe – the largest trial in the country’s history is now set to clarify the background to the attacks, which left 130 dead and 350 injured.
The trial of the terrorist attacks began almost six years ago in Paris on Wednesday under the strictest security precautions. Accused: 20 suspects, including Salah Abdeslam, who has already been convicted in Belgium, as the main perpetrator and sole survivor of the terrorist squad.
The 31-year-old Franco-Moroccan appeared at the start of the trial with a beard, a black T-shirt and a black face mask. “There is no god but Allah”, were Abdeslam’s first words in the process. “We’ll see that later,” said the presiding judge, Jean-Louis Périès, unmoved in reply.
“I gave up every job to become a fighter for the Islamic State,” Abdeslam replied to the presiding judge’s question about his job. He is said to have brought three of the assassins to the football stadium and wore an explosive belt himself.
Abdeslam was brought from the prison to the court in a heavily secured convoy that morning. He had spent a good five years in solitary confinement there and had never commented in detail on the crimes.
13 other defendants are said to have been supporters. Six other defendants are on trial in absentia. Five of them are believed to have since died in Syria. One is imprisoned in Turkey on terrorist charges.
In the gruesome series of attacks, the extremists shot 130 people in the “Bataclan” concert hall as well as in bars and restaurants. At the “Stade de France” three suicide bombers blew themselves up during an international soccer match between Germany and France. The terrorist militia ISIS claimed the attacks for themselves.
Process start under the strictest security precautions
Almost 1,000 police officers were mobilized in Paris to start the trial. Special armed forces secured the spacious, cordoned-off Palace of Justice, in which a specially assembled jury negotiates in a specially equipped hall with 550 seats. Screens ensure that the negotiation is broadcast in all areas of the hall. The indictment is based on 500 files containing the results of the investigation. The process is scheduled to run until May 2022. Most of the defendants face life or 20 years imprisonment.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has called on the prefects of Paris and other places to be more vigilant. He recalled that during the trial of the attack on the editorial staff of the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” there had been further attacks. Less than a year ago, the teacher Samuel Paty was killed by an Islamist.
Hundreds of witnesses are to be heard, in addition to investigators from France and Belgium, the then French President François Hollande.
On the first two days, the nearly 1,800 co-plaintiffs will be called by name, including those affected and relatives from around 20 countries. In view of the dramatic extent of the night of terror, they should be given the space they deserve: over a period of five weeks, around 300 of them should describe what they experienced. Psychological support is available for them during the entire process. A red or green band on your access badge indicates whether you can be approached by journalists.
“The process is a burden, but at the same time I am waiting for the justice to be done,” said Sophie Bouchard-Stech, the widow of one of the two German victims, in advance. “After that I will be more relaxed, because then everything has been done that could be done to punish the perpetrators.”