PARIS (AP) – In a custom-built secure complex integrated into a 13th-century courthouse, France on Wednesday began the trial of 20 men accused of the 2015 attacks by the Islamic State group in Paris that left 130 dead and hundreds of injured.
The defendants were taken one by one into a glass box at the side of the courtroom, surrounded by armed officers.
Nine armed men and suicide bombers struck a few minutes apart the national football stadium of France, the Bataclan concert hall and Parisian restaurants and cafes on November 13, 2015. The survivors of the attacks as well as those who mourn their dead have filled the rooms, which were designed to accommodate 1,800 plaintiffs and more than 300 lawyers.
The sole survivor of the extremist cell that night, Salah Abdeslam, is the main accused. Abdeslam appeared wearing black short-sleeved shorts and black pants.
The defendants were called in alphabetical order, Abdeslam was the first and he was asked to identify himself.
Asked to clarify his profession, Abdeslam said his “ambition is to become an Islamic State fighter”.
The trial began almost an hour later than scheduled. No reason for the delay was immediately given.
Abdeslam is the only one accused of murder. The same ISIS network hit Brussels months later, killing 32 more.
Dominique Kielemoes, whose son died of blood in one of the cafes that evening, said the month devoted to testimonies of victims at trial will be crucial for both their own healing and that of the nation.
“The assassins, these terrorists, thought they were shooting at the crowd, at a mass of people. But it was not a mass – they were individuals who had a life, who loved, had hopes and expectations, and whom we have to talk about at the trial. It’s important. “She said,
Twenty men are charged, but six of them will be tried in absentia. Abdeslam, who abandoned his rental car in northern Paris and threw in a faulty anti-suicide vest before fleeing to his home in Brussels, refused to speak to investigators. But it holds the answers to many remaining questions about the attack and the people who planned it, both in Europe and abroad.
The modern courtroom was built in the 13th-century courthouse in Paris, where Marie-Antoinette and Emile Zola were tried, among others.
For the first time, victims can also have a secure audio link to listen to from their homes if they wish, within 30 minutes.
The trial is expected to last nine months. The month of September will be devoted to the development of police and forensic evidence. October will be devoted to the testimony of the victims. From November to December, officials including former French President François Hollande will testify, as well as relatives of the attackers.
Abdeslam will be questioned several times. He has so far refused to speak to investigators.
The attacks transformed France, which declared a state of emergency that night and which now has armed officers constantly patrolling public spaces. And it forever changed the lives of everyone who suffered loss or witnessed the violence that night.
“Our ability to be carefree is gone,” Kielemoes said. “The desire to go out, to travel, it’s all gone. Even though we still do a number of things, our appetite for life is gone.
For Jean-Luc Wertenschlag, who lives above the cafe where his son died and who rushed downstairs shortly after the first shots in an attempt to save lives, it even changed the way he got around the city where he was born and raised. He never leaves home without the first aid supplies he lacked that night when he ripped off his shirt to stop a victim’s bleeding.
“What we did that evening with other people, to assist those injured in the attack, was a way of resisting what these monsters had tried to do to us,” he said. declared.
None of the proceedings will be televised or rebroadcast to the public, but will be recorded for archival purposes. Video recording has only been allowed for a handful of cases in France considered to be of historical value, including last year’s trial for the 2015 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris and a kosher supermarket.
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