In France, 20 suspects will be on trial tomorrow for the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015, when terrorists set up a massacre that killed 130 people. Most of the victims fell in Bataclan concert hall. The attacks were claimed by IS terror movement.
The lawsuit is unprecedented in size. The trial is going to take nine months. Some 1800 survivors and relatives have signed up as civil parties. They are represented by about 300 lawyers. More than a hundred witnesses are heard, including President François Hollande.
The Paris court has been refurbished for EUR 8 million to make room for all those people and to ensure a safe trial. French intelligence agencies are feared that new attacks are being committed during the trial.
The area of the court, the Palais de Justice on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, will be extra secured during the session days. The roads around it are closed.
“For us, victims, this process can be a time to turn a painful page,” says musician Franck from northern France. He survived the Bataclan attack and will testify during the trial.
“A lawsuit is a very important stage, which we have to go through. Maybe after that the peace of our lives will return a bit,” he says in this video:
The fact that the trial begins only now, almost six years after the attacks, has to do with the lengthy preliminary investigation. This was particularly complicated due to the international branches. The assignment for the attacks was given in Syria, the perpetrators traveled from Syria to Belgium or were already there, and everything was prepared from there.
An additional problem was that all but one offenders are dead. During the attacks they were shot by officers or they blew themselves up with bomb jackets.
Salah Abdeslam is the only one of the ten perpetrators who survived and who appears in court. He dropped off three terrorists in Paris, threw his bombs in a trash can himself and was picked up by accomplices and brought to Belgium. There he was arrested in March 2016.
So far, Abdeslam has mostly been silent about his role and about the clients. There is a good chance that he will remain silent during the trial as well.
Of the twenty suspects, only fourteen are physically present. The six others have been fugitive or killed in Syria. They can be tried in absentia because their deaths have not been officially determined or because their bodies were never found.
At least one of the main suspects is missing in court: Oussama Atar. He is being tried but allegedly killed in a Western air strike against Syria in 2017. The Belgian-Moroccan Atar was in IS area, in Raqqa, where he had a leading role in the terror movement. From Syria, he directed terrorists, is suspicion.
“He commissioned the attacks, selected the people they had to carry out and instructed them,” writes the French justice. “He organized the departure of terrorists from Syria (to Europe, ed.), provided money, phones and fake passports and stayed in touch with them all the time during their journey from Syria to Belgium.”
Many suspects come from Belgium. The terror cell that was located there that prepared the attacks in Paris was also responsible for the attacks that were carried out in Brussels in March 2016.
Schiphol attack plan
In addition, the group would have had the plan to attack Schiphol, writes Justice. In Belgium, a computer of the terrorists was found in 2016 with a file called Schiphol Group. A sound recording was also found where one of the members of that cell says that “American, Russian and Israeli airplanes” are a target.
Tunisian Sofien Ayari and Swede Osama Krayem, who are both on trial in Paris, travelled “on the evening of November 13, 2015 to Schiphol Amsterdam, as part of the project to strike simultaneously at that airport and in France,” says Justice.
They took the bus from Brussels, stayed in the Netherlands for six hours, and then traveled back without having committed an attack.
Why the pair didnt hit, and what they did in the Netherlands, remains unclear until today. Krayem is said to have told police that he and Ayari did not want to commit an attack at the airport that 13th November. But there was a plan ready. “Given the circumstances at that time, it is clear that something had to happen at Schiphol,” Krayem said, according to daily Le Monde.
The twenty men who face trial in Paris in the next nine months becomeofficially suspected of participating in a terrorist organization and complicity in the attacks. Some belonged to the organizers, think justice, others provided hand and tensioning services. For example, some caused explosives and some arranged shelter for the perpetrators.
In the coming weeks, the court will spend mainly on reconstructing the events in 2015 and hearing the victims and relatives. It is not until November that the fourteen suspects present are being interrogated. A verdict is expected at the earliest end of May.
Take a look back at the attacks by IS terrorists in Paris on November 13, 2015: