PARIS ( Associated Press) – The only surviving attacker from the 2015 terrorist massacre at the Bataclan Theater and other sites in Paris has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
This is the harshest sentence in France, and very rare.
Salah Abdeslam, 18, was the prime suspect in an extraordinary trial over the 2015 attacks that killed 130 people in attacks on the Bataclan Theatre, Paris Cafe and France’s national stadium and were claimed by the Islamic State group.
A judge in the Special Terrorism Court on Wednesday found him guilty of murder and attempt to murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise. The court found that his explosive vest was defective, rejecting his argument that he ate the vest as he chose not to go ahead with his attack.
A special French court also found 20 people guilty on Wednesday of their involvement in the attacks, considered the deadliest peacetime attacks in French history.
Presiding Judge Jean-Louis Perez read out the decisions in a court surrounded by unprecedented security, ending the nine-month trial.
Read more: 2015 Paris attack suspect claims 130 killed were ‘nothing personal’
As for the other defendants, they were given various terrorism-related sentences, and one was convicted of less fraud. Sentencing was expected later on Wednesday.
During the nine-month trial, Abdeslam declared his bigotry, cried, apologized to the victims and urged the judges to forgive their “mistakes”.
For the families of the victims and survivors of the attacks, the trial has been painful yet crucial in their quest for justice and closure.
For months, the 13th-century Justice Palace that houses the packed main hall and 12 overflowing rooms listened to Abdeslam’s testimony as well as tragic accounts by victims. Other defendants are accused of facilitating large-scale logistics or transportation. At least one is accused of a direct role in the deadly March 2016 attacks in Brussels, also claimed by the Islamic State group.
For survivors and bereaved loved ones, the trial was an opportunity to recall deeply personal accounts of the horrors that occurred that night and to hear the details of countless acts of bravery, humanity, and compassion among strangers. Some hoped for justice, but most wanted the accused to simply state that they had suffered irreparable harm, but had not been broken.
At the start of the trial in September 2021, Dominic Klemos said, “The killers, these terrorists thought they were firing into a crowd, into a crowd of people.” His son died in a cafe. Hearing the victims’ testimony was “important for their own healing and that of the nation,” Kielmos said.
“It wasn’t a mass – these were individuals who had life, who loved, had hopes and expectations,” she said.
France changed in the wake of the attacks: The authorities declared a state of emergency and armed officers now continuously patrol public places. The violence led to self-discovery among the French and Europeans, as most of the attackers were born and raised in France or Belgium. And he forever changed the lives of all those who were harmed or who testified.
Presiding Judge Jean-Louis Perez said at the start of the trial that it pertained to “international and national events of this century”. France emerged from a state of emergency in 2017 after a number of drastic measures were incorporated into the law.
watch: Paris attacks witness embraces ‘survivor’s liability’
14 defendants are in court, including Abdeslam, the sole survivor of the 10-man raiding team that terrorized Paris that Friday night. All except one in six absentees are believed to have been killed in Syria or Iraq; The other is in a Turkish prison.
Most of the suspects are accused of facilitating false identities, transporting attackers from Syria to Europe, or providing them with money, phones, explosives or weapons.
Belgium’s Abdeslam, 32, of Moroccan origin, was the only defendant to be tried on multiple counts of murder and kidnapping as a member of the terrorist organization.
Abdeslam has only been sentenced to life in prison without parole four times in France for crimes related to the rape and murder of minors.
Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for nine other defendants. The remaining suspects were tried on lesser terrorism charges and faced sentences ranging from five to 30 years.
In closing arguments, prosecutors insisted that all 20 defendants, who fanned around the French capital armed with semi-automatic rifles and explosive-pack vests to mount parallel attacks, were the Islamic State extremist group responsible for the massacre. are members of.
Prosecutor Nicolas Brackone told the court this month, “Not everyone is a jihadist, but everyone you admit to participating in a terrorist group is accepting either punishment, cowardice or greed. “
Some defendants, including Abdeslam, said French policies in the Middle East and Western air strikes in Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq killed hundreds of civilians targeting innocent civilians.
During his testimony, former President François Hollande dismissed claims that his government was at fault.
Hollande said Islamic State, “this proxy state declared war with the weapons of war.” The Paris attackers who terrorized, shot, killed, crippled and traumatized civilians not because of religion, he said, were “radicalism and barbarism”.
During Monday’s closing arguments, Abdelslam’s lawyer, Olivia Ronen, told a panel of judges that her client was the only one in the group of attackers who did not produce explosives to kill others that night. He argued that he could not be blamed for the murder.
Ronan said, “If sentenced to life imprisonment without the hope of experiencing freedom again, I fear we have lost our sense of proportion.” She insisted through the trial that she was “not giving legitimacy to the attacks” by defending her client in court.
Abdeslam apologized to the victims during his final court appearance on Monday, saying their remorse and grief were heartfelt and sincere. He said hearing accounts of victims “so pained” changed them.
“I’ve made mistakes, that’s true, but I’m not a murderer, I’m not a murderer,” he said.