Life sentence handed down to main defendant in Paris terror trial

The main defendant in the trial for the Islamist terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015, in Paris - Salah Abdeslam - has been sentenced to life imprisonment, the court in the Paris Palace of Justice said on Wednesday evening.

Paris, 30 June 2022 (dpa/MIA) – The main defendant in the trial for the Islamist terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015, in Paris – Salah Abdeslam – has been sentenced to life imprisonment, the court in the Paris Palace of Justice said on Wednesday evening.

A jury found the 32-year-old Frenchman guilty of complicity in the murders in connection with a terrorist organization.

Abdeslam, who is considered the sole survivor of the terrorist cell at the time, is not to be given the opportunity to reduce his sentence before 30 years have elapsed.

He had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for shooting at police shortly before his arrest.

There were also long prison sentences against other defendants, with 19 of the 20 defendants found guilty on all counts.

The pronouncement of the verdict was initially delayed by hours on Wednesday. Because of the advanced time, said presiding judge Jean-Louis Périès, the court refrained from reading the 120 pages of the verdict in full.

The defendants followed the reasoning of the verdict attentively and with serious looks, while Périès listed at a fast pace why the court considered the serious accusations to be proven.

Two of the defendants slapped their hands together in front of their faces, a defence lawyer ran her hand over one’s knee to calm him down.

The legal proceedings, which stretched over 140 trial days, or more than nine months in total, looked in detail at the series of attacks in which the extremists killed 130 people and injured 350 others.

The Friday night attack on November 13, 2015, left 130 people dead and 350 wounded at the Bataclan concert hall, outside the Stade de France football stadium and through a swathe of the centre of Paris within the space of a few hours.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility.

Nine perpetrators were killed on the night of the attack, either through suicide bombings or at the hands of police officers.

The series of attacks caused horror all over the world. In addition to Abdeslam, 19 other defendants had to answer for their crimes in the mammoth trial.

Six of the accused were tried in absentia, with five of them believed to have died in Syria since the attacks. One is being detained on terror charges in Turkey.

Among other things, the men are said to have procured papers, to have driven Abdeslam out of the country or to be foiled assassins. Some of them were also accused of only occasionally carrying out orders.

At the start of the trial in September, Abdeslam confessed to the presiding judge to being an Islamic State member and described it as his profession.

The prosecution saw the Frenchman as a key figure in the attacks. His older brother Brahim was among the assassins who blew themselves up in a bar.

The two had grown up in the Brussels community of Molenbeek, which is known as a sanctuary for radical Islamists.

Salah Abdeslam worked as a mechanic, had temporary jobs and was imprisoned in 2011 for attempted theft.

Abdeslam and other defendants sat in a bulletproof box during the course of the trial, which featured weeks of harrowing testimony from survivors of the rampage.

Time and again, sessions were postponed or cancelled because defendants had contracted the coronavirus or did not want to appear in court.

Apart from the question of individual guilt, it was also about the terrorist structures behind the attack.

However, the accused left much vague. Abdeslam, for example, only answered a few questions and shifted responsibility away from himself, blaming French politics for the Paris attacks.

He answered questions only partially, complained about the prison conditions and glorified Islamic State.

In his last statement, he called it an injustice if he was convicted of murder.

In view of all this, the prosecution saw no regret or guilt.

The frustration and disappointment of the survivors and their relatives is likely to be great.

“The pain is there. It will not be diminished. I will be inconsolable,” the father of a young man killed, who travelled from Algeria for the entire trial, told France 2.

Bilal Mokono, who was left a paraplegic, said, “When we look at the dock, we see these young people, these very young people, who look like our children … You ask yourself, why, why, why? What have we missed that things are getting so out of hand?”

“For six years I felt like I was picking up the little pieces of myself. With the trial, I put those pieces together and recreated and revived the woman I was before,” Aurélie Silvestre, who lost her partner at the time, told the Libération newspaper.

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