Fri, August 19, 2022


French court finds 20 guilty for 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris

A French court on Wednesday handed down guilty verdicts for all 20 men tried for the 2015 killing of 130 people in a coordinated gun-and-bomb rampage by Islamist gunmen in Paris.

The main suspect Salah Abdeslam was found guilty on terrorism and murder charges, judge Jean-Louis Peries said.

The 32-year-old Belgium-born Frenchman, the only surviving member of the group that carried out the attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of early release, a sentence handed out only four times previously in France.

"I am convinced that this most severe sentence will satisfy the expectations of a certain number of our members, a certain number of victims," said Philippe Duperron, the father of a victim of the attack at the Bataclan concert hall.

The Bataclan hall, six bars and restaurants and the perimeter of the Stade de France sports stadium were targeted in hours-long attacks across Paris that shook France and left deep scars on the country's psyche.

A defiant Abdeslam had said at the start of the trial that he was a "soldier" of the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

He later apologized to the victims and said during the trial that he had chosen at the last minute not to detonate his explosive vest. But, based on the investigations and hearings, the court ruled otherwise.

"The court considered that the explosive vest malfunctioned," Peries said. Abdeslam is "guilty of being a member of a terrorist network," he also said.

"All defendants are found guilty on all counts," the judge added, with the exception of terrorism charges for one of the less prominent accused.

It has been a trial like no others, not only for its exceptional length of 10 months but also for the time it devoted to allowing victims to testify in detail about their ordeal and their struggles in overcoming it, while families of those killed spoke of how hard it was to move on.

Thirteen other people, ten of whom are also in custody, were also in the courtroom during the months-long hearings. During that time, some took responsibility for their role in the attacks and apologized to the victims. Others have not said a word.

The court found them guilty of crimes ranging from helping provide the attackers with weapons or cars to planning to take part in the attack. Six more, tried in absentia and believed to be dead, were also found guilty.

Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan attack, said although he was content with the trial's outcome, it's only the first step in the victims' healing process.

"It was justice for sure, but justice can't do anything, justice is just, you know, applying the rule of law and it's not healing everything. We'll see that, it will help us heal, but we still have work to do obviously," he said.

French politicians on Wednesday stated their support for the life sentencing of Salah Abdeslam. 

Former French Socialist President Francois Hollande, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and far-right leader Marine Le Pen also expressed their sympathy for the families of the victims.

"Justice has been served," Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

Published : June 30, 2022

By : Reuters