The defense arguments end this Friday with those of Salah Abdeslam’s lawyers. Before them, several counsel have called for acquittals for the other defendants.
The trial of the November 13 attacks is coming to an end. After nine months of debates, the specially composed assize court will withdraw. Before that, she will hear the argument of the lawyers of Salah Abdeslam, Mes Olivia Ronen and Martin Vettes, who will speak this Friday. The two counsel for the only defendant judged as the “co-author” of the attacks are the last to plead when the heaviest penalty in the criminal code – criminal imprisonment with an incompressible security period – was requested against him.
Before them, the lawyers of the 13 defendants who appear alongside Salah Abdeslam defended these men against whom they were required between 5 years in prison and life imprisonment. On the one hand, some lawyers argued the law, on the other, they recalled the geopolitical context.
A “just sentence” for Mohamed Abrini
Mohamed Abrini was part of the terrorist cell. He was there during the preparation, he was part of the “convoy of death”, he was in the hideouts of Alfortville and Bobigny with the commandos of the attacks. But he gave up on the evening of November 12, he said, taking the road to Brussels. For these facts, the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office has requested life imprisonment with 22 years of security against him.
In her defence, there is no doubt that Mohamed Abrini, childhood friend of Salah Abdeslam and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, coordinator of the attacks, will be sentenced for what he did, but she is demanding “a just sentence”. “On November 13, he will not kill anyone,” recalled Me Marie Violleau, recalling that his client fell to the death of his little brother who went to Syria. If he knows that something serious is brewing, his lawyers come back to the fact that Mohamed Abrini did not know the targets, as he repeated at the hearing. Calling not to give in to the “spirit of revenge”, his defense pleaded for 30 years of criminal imprisonment.
“Individualize” the sentences for the defense of Ali Oulkadi
Five years in prison were required against Ali Oulkadi, who admitted having helped Salah Abdeslam on his return from Paris the day after the attacks, without saying he knew his involvement in the attacks. The National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office has not issued a committal warrant against him. The lesser sentence was required.
My Marie Dosé and Judith Lévy were the first to speak on the defense side. From the outset, they say they were “naive” thinking that the PNAT would drop all charges against their client tried for criminal association with terrorists and regret the lack of “individualization” of the sentences. The defense of this father of three children insists that at no time was Ali Oulkadi, close to Brahim Abdeslam, aware of being in contact with a terrorist enterprise and that the fact of going to a bar does not qualify a offense.
“What French justice took months to understand, he must have understood. He should have seen that a cell was being built before his eyes”, lamented Mes Dosé and Lévy.
The “vengeful” requisitions against Hamza Attou
Six years in prison were required against Hamza Attou. The maximum for “concealment of terrorist in relation to a terrorist enterprise” against the one who came to pick up Salah Abdeslam in Paris on November 14, 2015.
In his defence, these requisitions are more “vengeful than fair”, also ensuring that his client, young, addicted to cannabis and alcohol, uneducated, should have perceived the radicalization of his friends when “professionals put years of perceiving it”.
The “journey into absurdity” denounced by Abdellah Chouaa’s lawyers
Abdellah Chouaa is the one who fears this verdict the most. This 41-year-old father only spent three months in pre-trial detention while six years in prison were required against him. He is accused of having accompanied Mohammed Abrini, a key figure in the terrorist cell, to the airport knowing that he was going to Syria and picked him up on his return.
The Advocates General have proposed “a journey into absurdity”, according to the defense of Abdellah Chouaa. For his lawyers, their client could not see the radicalization of Mohamed Abrini who practiced taqiya, the concealment strategy put in place by Daesh. Blaying all the elements against Abdellah Chouaa, Me Adrien Sorrentino claims the acquittal for the benefit of the doubt for the one who did not have the perception of helping a terrorist cell. Without perception, there is no offence, argued the lawyer.
The instrumentalization of Mohammed Amri
Mohammed Amri is also prosecuted for having sought Salah Abdeslam in Paris on the night of November 13 to 14, 2015, in the company of Hamza Attou. Eight years were required against him by the PNAT while he is also accused of having helped the terrorist cell by renting one of the vehicles used by the jihadists during the attacks.
For his lawyers, Mes Negar Haeri and Xavier Nogueras, Mohammed Amri “did service” as he was “usual”. Was the 33-year-old Belgian-Moroccan aware of the radicalization of the Abdeslam brothers? “And even if he had knowledge of their radicalization” and of a “conspiracy of criminals”, did he himself have “the will to participate”? The defense here touches on the definition of the association of terrorist criminals. A legal debate that will have to be decided by the court.
· No “4th commando” for the defense of Muhammad Usman and Adel Haddadi
They were described as “operational upset” by the prosecution which required 20 years of criminal imprisonment against Muhammad Usman and Adel Haddadi. The prosecution considers that the Pakistani and the Algerian should have participated in the attacks if they had not been arrested in Greece.
Their defense recognizes that the two men did indeed join Syria and the ranks of Daesh. But they were not planned to participate in the attacks of November 13, plead the lawyers, dismantling the “myth of the 4th commando”. They want proof of this in the journey of the two jihadists from Syria. Arrived in Greece on October 3, 2015, they were arrested and then released before taking 17 days to reach Austria. “You can’t say they were in a hurry, it’s a snail’s pace. We saw more The seventh company that a group moved by a criminal instinct”, dared the lawyer of Mohammed Usman, Me Edward Huylebrouck.
The acquittal claimed for the “forger” of the cell
Farid Kharkhach provided fake IDs that were used by the jihadist cell. Prosecuted for “association of terrorist criminals”, he was required against him six years in prison.
His lawyers referred to him as a “second knife” and called for “replacing the cursor of fair qualification and fair punishment”. He did not “agree to dine with the devil”, insist his lawyers. Farid Kharkhach admitted having “fooled around for a few hundred euros”, denying having perceived the radicalization of Khalid El-Bakraoui, who participated in the attacks in Brussels, to whom he had given four false cards, according to the prosecution. “Why keep this costume too big for him? questioned Me Fanny Vial, calling on the judges to requalify the facts.
The “innocence of Ali El Haddad Asufi” pleaded
Ali El Haddad Asufi is accused of having searched for weapons in the Netherlands on behalf of the terrorist cell. He is also accused of having rented a studio, which served as a conspiratorial apartment. The prosecution requested against this 37-year-old Belgian-Moroccan 16 years of criminal imprisonment.
In his defence, the weapons component is one of the weakest in the prosecution, while the provenance of the six Kalashnikovs used by the November 13 terrorists could not be determined. “If we remove the weapons, what still makes the link” between Ali El Haddad Asufi and the attacks, questioned Me Martin Méchin, while his client has always assured to have gone to Rotterdam to recover from the dope. Ali El Haddad Asufi, “little guy from Brussels, seller of hash”, had rented a studio for Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who died in the attacks in Brussels. “Ibrahim the terrorist who will have used his friend until the attacks and again after, without shame”, pleaded the lawyer recalling that the terrorist had assured to be wanted because of a robbery.
A “severe” but “fair” sentence for Osama Krayem
Osama Krayem is on trial for “complicity” in the November 13 attacks. the prosecution requested criminal imprisonment with a 30-year security period against this 29-year-old Swede, an Islamic State fighter identified in an execution video.
For his lawyers, Osama Krayem should not have been tried in this trial. It was “intended for another project which, in the event that it existed, was not carried out”, notes Me Gisèle Stuyck, who considers that one cannot condemn a man who was not on the territory where the attacks took place. “It was not planned for Paris”, summarized his other lawyer Me Margaux Durand-Poincloux.
Yassine Atar’s lawyers denounce a “substitute culprit”
Was Yassine Atar present at the “key dates” of preparation for the November 13 attacks? For the prosecution, there is no doubt and requested against the 35-year-old Belgian a nine-year prison sentence with two-thirds security.
In his defense, Yassine Atar pays his family ties, he who is the youngest of Osama Atar, tried in his absence, and accused of having recruited the suicide bombers of November 13. “When we don’t know what Yassine Atar did, we ask you to imagine it. When we don’t know anything, we imagine the worst”, his guilt, deplores Me Raphaël Kempf, for whom “such reasoning” is “contrary to law”. “Do not look at the brother, the cousin” but the man who has always pleaded his innocence, hammered Me Christian Saint-Palais, his other lawyer, pleading the acquittal.
Do not condemn “equally” pleads the lawyer of the “logistician” Bakkali
Mohammed Bakkali is considered a “working pin” in the preparation of the November 13 attacks. The prosecution considers that he transported members of the jihadist cell and that he rented hideouts and cars for them in Belgium. Life imprisonment, together with a 22-year security period, was requested against the Belgian-Moroccan described as the “masterpiece” of logistics.
Me Orly Rezlan had the difficult task of speaking while his client has been silent for many months, believing that his “word has no value”. She denounces a “penalty of elimination”, she recognizes that certainly her client is “a link” but “a link that can be replaced”. “In the name of the emotion aroused by these crimes”, she calls not to condemn “equally the assassin, the accomplice of the preparatory acts, the renter of cars and houses”.
The “political” plea for Sofien Ayari
Sofien Ayari is also suspected of planning to carry out an attack at Amsterdam airport on the evening of November 13, 2015 with Osama Krayem. For this project “prevented”, he was required life imprisonment with a security period of 30 years.
Sofien Ayari admitted at the hearing that he had made a “political choice” by joining the Islamic State. Since February, he has kept silent. In his defence, there is no evidence that he helped prepare the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis. “You will not retain the complicity because we cannot retain the void”, insists Me Ilyacine Maallaoui. The lawyer recalls that “some did not die because they refused”.