Paris gears up for trial of terrorists who masterminded 2015 attacks

Paris gears up for nine-month trial of ISIS terrorists who masterminded 2015 attacks on Bataclan and Stade de France which left 130 dead

  • 20 men are charged with masterminding the attacks, 14 of whom will be tried
  • 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the biggest attack in Paris besides WWII 
  • Salah Abdeslam is the main defendant and the only terrorist still alive who carried out the attacks firsthand
  • He is on trial for murder and a host of other crimes and faces life imprisonment
  • The trial begins today in the 13th century Palais de Justice in Paris

Paris is today gearing up for a mammoth nine-month trial of the ISIS terrorists who masterminded the 2015 attacks on the Bataclan and Stade de France which killed 130 people.

A historic 13th-century courthouse will play host to the country’s largest ever criminal trial.

Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national radicalised by the Islamic State (IS), is the main defendant in a case in which 20 men are charged with co-ordinating the attacks, 14 of whom will be tried.

France suffered its most ruthless terror attack in 2015 when three groups of jihadists carried out co-ordinated attacks on the Stade de France national stadium, the Bataclan music hall, and numerous restaurants and bars which left 130 dead and over 350 injured.

Abdeslam is the only terrorist who took part in the attacks still alive, after he aborted his suicide mission and fled to his hometown of Brussels.  

Most of the defendants face the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of complicity in the attacks.

The trial is expected to unfold over nine months and will take place in a secure modern complex embedded within the historic courthouse designed to hold 1,800 victims, 330 lawyers and 141 accredited journalists. 

Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national radicalised by the Islamic State, is the main defendant in a case in which 20 men are charged with co-ordinating the attacks, 14 of whom will be tried

France suffered its most ruthless terror attack in 2015 when three groups of jihadists carried out co-ordinated attacks on the Stade de France national stadium, the Bataclan music hall, and numerous restaurants and bars which left 130 dead and over 350 injured

The trial is expected to unfold over nine months and will take place in a secure modern complex embedded within a historic 13th century Parisian courthouse

The specially designed courtroom and associated holding rooms are designed to hold 1,800 victims, 330 lawyers and 141 accredited journalists

The 13th-century Palais de Justice, where Marie Antoinette and Emile Zola faced trial, has been transformed to accommodate hundreds of people for the trial

Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night, with a total of 330 lawyers involved in the case.

The 13th-century Palais de Justice, where Marie Antoinette and Emile Zola faced trial, has been transformed to accommodate hundreds of people, while recording equipment has been installed to provide live broadcasts of the proceedings throughout the court, including an audio link that can be accessed live from home by victims’ families, albeit with a 30 minute delay.  

None of the proceedings will be televised or rebroadcast for the public, but it will be recorded for archival purposes. 

Cameras are restricted to filming outside the trial room, as video recording is illegal in French courts.

Court recordings have only been allowed for a handful of extremely high-profile cases considered to be of historical value, such as the trials of Nazi officials and collaborators including Klaus Barbie, Rwandan officials involved in the Tutsi genocide and figures linked to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The most recent recorded court proceedings were last year, for the January 2015 attacks against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris and a kosher supermarket.

Security at the courthouse is expected to be significant. The courthouse is on the island at the centre of Paris, around which all driving, parking and even pedestrian traffic will be blocked from most of the surrounding streets and along the banks of the River Seine

Brahim Abdeslam, the brother of defendant Salah Abdeslam, holds a rifle in front of La Belle Equipe restaurant in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015. Brahim detonanted his suicide vest after gunning down dozens of French civilians

The attacks in 2015 are the biggest in French history outside of the attacks that took place during WWII

How will the nine-month terror trial unfold? 

The trial, which is the biggest in French history, is expected to last until May 2022 and has been broken down into several stages.

  • September 2021: Police and forensic evidence will be given
  • October 2021: Victims of the terror attacks will give their testimonies
  • November – December 2021: Officials including former French President François Hollande will testify, as will relatives of the attackers
  • January – March 2022: Each of the defendants will be questioned following the chronology of the events, from the preparations to the attacks and their aftermath. Main defendant Salah Abdeslam will be questioned multiple times
  • April 2022: Experts will give psychological assessments
  • May 2022: Closing arguments will be given by both sides before a final verdict is delivered at the end of the month

Twenty men are going on trial from Wednesday, six of them in absentia. 

Most of the men who face trial are accused of helping create false identities, transporting the attackers back to Europe from Syria, providing them with money and phones, and supplying explosives and weapons, while five of the six absent defendants are presumed dead.

Salah Abdeslam meanwhile is the main defendant and will face rigorous questioning over a period of three months.

Abdeslam is charged with murder, and is the only terrorist who carried out the attacks firsthand thought to be alive. His brother, Brahim Abdeslam, detonated his suicide vest after gunning down dozens of French civilians with automatic weapons.

It is unclear whether Salah Abdeslam did not detonate his suicide vest due to a malfunction or a last-minute change of mind, but he is still thought to have shot dead several people before he managed to slip through three police checkpoints and back to Brussels. 

Abdeslam was finally arrested in his Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek in March 2016 after four months on the run, days before the IS network of which he was a part attacked the Brussels airport and metro, killing another 32 people. 

The terrorist has thus far refused to speak to investigators or his lawyers in Belgium, but has requested that a young French lawyer, Olivia Ronen, would be his primary representative. 

Security at the courthouse is expected to be significant.

The courthouse is on the island at the centre of Paris, around which all driving, parking and even pedestrian traffic will be blocked from most of the surrounding streets and along the banks of the River Seine.

There will be different entries for different parties to the case, who will undergo searches each time they enter the building, with multiple checkpoints being set up to ensure the maximum level of security. 

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