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Men convicted of involvement in 2015 terror attacks in Paris

The attacks resulted in the deaths of 130 people, when a team of jihadists laid siege to the French capital.

The Bataclan concert hall in Paris
The Bataclan concert hall in Paris
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Updated Jun 29th 2022, 7:55 PM

A SPECIAL FRENCH court has found 20 men guilty of involvement in the so-called Islamic State terrorist attacks on the Bataclan theatre, Paris cafes and France’s national stadium in 2015.

The deadliest peacetime attacks in French history killed 130 people.

The chief suspect and only survivor of the 10-member team of extremists, Salah Abdeslam, was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise, among other charges.

He faces up to life in prison without parole, the toughest sentence in France.

Presiding judge Jean-Louis Peries read the verdicts in a courthouse surrounded by unprecedented security, wrapping up a nine-month trial.

Of the defendants besides Abdeslam, 18 were handed various terrorism-related convictions, and one was convicted on a lesser fraud charge.

The marathon 10-month trial has reopened the scars of modern France’s worst peacetime atrocity, having began on September 8, 2021.

It has been the biggest in modern French history, the culmination of a six-year, multi-country investigation whose findings run to more than a million pages.

All the alleged attackers were killed in the aftermath of the assault except Abdeslam, who was captured alive by police four months later.

The verdicts, drawn up by a panel of five judges who have been deliberating at a secret location since Monday, are expected to take several hours to read through this evening.

Survivors and victims 

Survivors and relatives of victims have applauded the trial as an important stage in overcoming the trauma.

“When you take part, you hear about everyone else’s stories, what they suffered, what they lost,” David Fritz Goeppinger, one of the Bataclan hostages, told AFP recently.

Arthur Denouveaux, head of the Life for Paris survivors’ group, said that after nine gruelling months, people were ready for the end.

Focus on key accused

“I’m not that interested in the verdicts in themselves. It’s really about saying ‘That’s it. It’s behind us. The justice system has done its work, we can move on’,” he told AFP.

The main focus will be on Abdeslam, now 32, who discarded his suicide belt on the night of the attack and fled back to his hometown, Brussels, where many of the extremists lived.

He told the court that he had a change of heart and decided not to kill people. But prosecutors have argued that he shared the murderous intent of the rest of the attack team and that his equipment simply malfunctioned.

Changed demeanour

Abdeslam’s demeanour has also changed throughout the trial. At the beginning he upset proceedings with angry and defiant rants but then in April apologised to the victims and asked them to “hate me with moderation.”

Prosecutors have requested a full-life term, the severest penalty for criminals that can be imposed under French law.

It offers only a small chance of parole after 30 years. Such sentences have been pronounced only four times since being created in 1994.

“Those who committed these heinous crimes are nothing more than lowlife terrorists and criminals,” prosecutor Nicolas Le Bris said in his closing statement earlier this month.

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But Abdeslam’s defence team has urged the judges to make a verdict based strictly on the law and not emotions.

Trauma for France

“I hope that the judges will be able to understand what happened and apply the law as well as possible in order to have the fairest decisions,” Olivia Ronen, one of his lawyers, told France Info radio.

The November 2015 attacks deeply traumatised France, with the choice of targets — music and sports venues, the capital’s famed bars and cafes — and the manner of the violence seemingly designed to inflict maximum shock.

The huge loss of life marked the start of a gruesome and violent period in Europe, as IS claimed responsibility for numerous attacks across the continent, leading Paris to ramp up its military campaign to defeat the extremists in Syria and Iraq.

In the absence of the rest of the attackers, the men on trial besides Abdeslam are suspected of offering logistical support or plotting other attacks.

Other accused

One of them, Mohamed Abrini, has admitted to driving some of the Paris attackers to the capital and explained how he was meant to take part but backed out.

The 37-year-old also started out justifying IS violence as part of a fight against Western countries but ended by apologising to victims in the trial’s final stages.

Also facing a life term is Swedish citizen Osama Krayem, who has been identified in a notorious IS video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

Six of the 20 people on trial in Paris are missing, including the overall commander, senior Syria-based IS figure and veteran jihadist Oussama Atar, who is presumed dead.

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AFP

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