Paris terror trial opens for 20 accused in 2015 attacks

Belgium_France_Attacks_Trial_43248 FILE - This file image taken from video on Wednesday April 13, 2016 shows Salah Abdeslam, left, strolling through the Molenbeek market in Brussels, Belgium. France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. The proceedings begin Wednesday in an enormous custom-designed chamber. Most of the defendants face the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of complicity in the attacks. Only Abdeslam is charged with murder.
France_Attacks_Trial_82576 A man walks to the Palace of Justice after a police check Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night. A total of 330 lawyers are representing them and the defendants.
France_Attacks_Trial_01508 Philippe Duperron, who's son was killed in the Bataclan shooting on Nov.13, 2015, answers reporters outside the special courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night. A total of 330 lawyers are representing them and the defendants.
France_Attacks_Trial_26089 Security forces guard an entrance of the Palace of Justice Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. The proceedings begin Wednesday in an enormous custom-designed chamber. Most of the defendants face the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of complicity in the attacks. Only Abdeslam is charged with murder.
France_Attacks_Trial_75112 Security forces guard an entrance of the Palace of Justice Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. The proceedings begin Wednesday in an enormous custom-designed chamber. Most of the defendants face the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of complicity in the attacks. Only Abdeslam is charged with murder.
France_Attacks_Trial_75243 This sketch shows key defendant Salah Abdeslam, right, and Mohammed Abrini in the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France began the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night. A total of 330 lawyers are representing them and the defendants.
France_Attacks_Trial_31584 Police forces guard the special courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. In a secure complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse, France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.
France_Attacks_Trial_88310 Police officers search people willing to enter the Palace of Justice Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night. A total of 330 lawyers are representing them and the defendants.
France_Attacks_Trial_96451 Lawyers and participants arrive at the special courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. In a secure complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse, France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.
France_Garmany_37619 German Christian Democratic candidate for Chancellor Armin Laschet lays a white rose at a plaque for the victims of the Bataclan attack, Wednesday, Sept.8, 2021. France opened the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at France's national soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and Paris restaurants and cafes on Nov. 13, 2015.
France_Attacks_Trial_42154 Security forces guard the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night. A total of 330 lawyers are representing them and the defendants.
France_Attacks_Trial_60502 Xavier Noguerras, a lawyer for defendant Mohammed Amri, a suspected accomplice of Salah Abdeslam, answers reporters outside the special courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France opened the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at France's national soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and Paris restaurants and cafes on Nov. 13, 2015.
France_Attacks_Trial_72603 Salah Abdeslam's lawyer Olivia Ronen, center, arrives at the courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. The proceedings begin Wednesday in an enormous custom-designed chamber. Most of the defendants face the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of complicity in the attacks. Only Abdeslam is charged with murder.
France_Attacks_Trial_75243 This sketch shows key defendant Salah Abdeslam, right, and Mohammed Abrini in the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France began the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Among the plantiffs are nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors who suffered physical or psychological harm and families whose loved ones died that night. A total of 330 lawyers are representing them and the defendants.
France_Attacks_Trial_43374 This sketch shows key defendant Salah Abdeslam with and without a mask, with text reading Abadelsam removes his mask, in the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. The trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's coordinated attacks on Paris in 2015 that transformed France opened Wednesday in a custom-built complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at several locations around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, leaving 130 people dead and spreading fear across the nation.
France_Attacks_Trial_48988 This sketch shows key defendant Salah Abdeslam, in black at right, in the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. The trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's coordinated attacks on Paris in 2015 that transformed France opened Wednesday in a custom-built complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at several locations around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, leaving 130 people dead and spreading fear across the nation.
France_Attacks_Trial_32019 Salah Abdeslam's lawyer Olivia Ronen, left, talks outside the courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. The trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's coordinated attacks on Paris in 2015 that transformed France opened Wednesday in a custom-built complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at several locations around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, leaving 130 people dead and spreading fear across the nation.
France_Attacks_Trial_69162 FILE - In this Nov.13, 2015 file photo, medics stand by victims in a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. On Nov. 13, 2015, a cell of nine Islamic State militants armed with automatic rifles and explosive vests left a trail of dead and injured at the national stadium, Paris bars and restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall. Nearly all the attackers were from France or Belgium, as were the cell's 10th member — the only one still alive. He is the chief defendant among 20 people charged in a trial that is expected to last nine months.
France_Attacks_Trial_61969 FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2015 file photo people gather in front of Le Carillon cafe, a site of the recent attacks, in Paris. French President Francois Hollande says the Paris attacks targeted "youth in all its diversity" and that the victims were of 19 different nationalities.
France_Attacks_Trial_78502 FILE - This is a an undated handout image made available by Belgium Federal Police of Salah Abdeslam who was wanted in connection to the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015. France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Nov. 13, 2015, Islamic State terror attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured . Twenty men are charged, but only 14 will be on trial. Chief among them is Salah Abdeslam, who ditched his car and a malfunctioning suicide vest and ultimately fled to a hideout in his hometown of Brussels.
France_Attacks_Trial_58450 FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2015 file photo flowers and candle tributes are placed at the Restaurant Le Carillon in Paris, after last Friday's attacks.
France_Attacks_Trial_39495 FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2015 file photo a bird flies in front of the Eiffel Tower ,which remained closed on the first of three days of national mourning, in Paris. Thousands of French troops deployed around Paris on Sunday and tourist sites stood shuttered in one of the most visited cities on Earth while investigators questioned the relatives of a suspected suicide bomber involved in the country's deadliest violence since World War II.
France_Attacks_Trial_30333 FILE - In this Friday Nov. 13, 2015 file photo a victim under a blanket lays dead outside the Bataclan theater in Paris.
France_Attacks_Trial_50529 FILE - In this Nov.14, 2015 file photo a man holds his head in his hands as he lays flowers in front of the Carillon cafe, in Paris.
France_Attacks_Trial_38181 FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, a woman is evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting in Paris. In an enormous custom-designed chamber, France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Nov. 13, 2015, Islamic State terror attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at the national soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and restaurants and cafes. Salah Abdeslam, the lone survivor of the terror cell from that night is among those being tried for the deadliest attack in France since World War II.
France_Attacks_Trial_39397 FILE - In this Nov.13, 2015 a supporter comforts a friend after invading the pitch of the Stade de France stadium at the end of the international friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Saint Denis, outside Paris. In an enormous custom-designed chamber, France is putting on trial 20 men accused in the Nov. 13, 2015, Islamic State terror attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at the national soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and restaurants and cafes. Salah Abdeslam, the lone survivor of the terror cell from that night is among those being tried for the deadliest attack in France since World War II.
(1/26)

PARIS (AP) — The trial of 20 men accused in a series of coordinated attacks on Paris in 2015 that spread fear across Europe and transformed France opened Wednesday in a custom-built complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse.

Nine Islamic State group gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of one another at several locations around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. It was the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II and among the worst terror attacks to hit the West.

The worst carnage was at the Bataclan concert hall, where three men, dressed in black and armed with assault rifles, gunned down scores of people and grabbed a handful of hostages. Others targeted the national soccer stadium, where the president was attending a game, as well as cafes filled with people on a mild autumn night.

The lone surviving attacker from that night, Salah Abdeslam, is the key defendant — but he has so far refused to speak to investigators, denying them answers to many of the remaining questions about the attacks and the people who planned them.

Abdeslam, whose brother was among the suicide bombers, appeared intent on provoking those assembled to see justice done Wednesday. Dressed all in black, mask included, he declared his profession to be “fighter for Islamic State” and later burst out with complaints about treatment in prison.

Abdeslam, who fled the night of the attacks after ditching his car and a malfunctioning suicide vest, is the only defendant charged with murder. The other defendants present face lesser terrorism charges.

The presiding judge, Jean-Louis Peries, acknowledged the extraordinary nature of the attacks — which changed security in Europe and France’s political landscape — and the trial to come. France only emerged from the state of emergency declared in the wake of the attacks in 2017, after incorporating many of the harshest measures into law.

“The events that we are about to decide are inscribed in their historic intensity as among the international and national events of this century,” he said.

Dominique Kielemoes, whose son bled to death at one of the cafes, said hearing victims’ testimonies at the trial will be crucial to both their own healing and that of the nation.

“The assassins, these terrorists, thought they were firing into the crowd, into a mass of people. But it wasn’t a mass — these were individuals who had a life, who loved, had hopes and expectations, and that we need to talk about at the trial. It’s important,” she said.

Of the 20 men charged, six will be tried in absentia. Abdeslam will be questioned multiple times — but it remains to be seen if he will break his silence beyond the sort of allegiance he offered Wednesday to Islamic State groups.

“We were expecting it, and we were prepared for it and in fact, we’re not expecting anything from him,” Kielemoes said after Abdeslam first appeared.

The same IS network that hit Paris went on to strike Brussels months later, killing another 32 people.

Authorities have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure security at the trial, building an entirely new courtroom within the storied 13th-century Palais de Justice in Paris, where Marie Antoinette and Emile Zola faced trial, among others.

Survivors of the attacks as well as those who mourn their dead on Wednesday packed the complex’s rooms, which were designed to hold 1,800 plaintiffs and over 300 lawyers.

For the first time, victims can also have a secure audio link to listen from home if they want with a 30-minute delay.

The trial is scheduled to last nine months. The month of September will be dedicated to laying out the police and forensic evidence. October will be given over to victims’ testimony. From November to December, officials including then-French President François Hollande — who was at the Stade de France on the night of the assaults — will testify, as will relatives of the attackers.

In the wake of the attacks, France changed: Authorities immediately declared a state of emergency and now armed officers constantly patrol public spaces. The assaults sparked soul-searching among the French and Europeans more broadly since most of the perpetrators were born and raised in France or Belgium. And they transformed forever the lives of all those who suffered losses or bore witness to the violence.

“Our ability to be carefree is gone,” Kielemoes said. “The desire to go out, travel — all of that’s gone. Even if we still do a number of things, our appetite for life has disappeared.”

For Jean-Luc Wertenschlag, who lives above the cafe where his son died and who rushed downstairs soon after the first gunshots to try to save lives, it has even changed the way he moves around the city where he was born and raised. He never leaves home without the first aid gear he lacked that night, when he ripped off his shirt to stanch the bleeding of a victim.

“What we did that evening with other people, to provide assistance to the people wounded during the attack, was a way to stand against what these monsters had tried to do to us,” he said.

Among those scheduled to testify is Hollande, who in addition to being present at one of the scenes of attack gave the final order to police special forces to storm the Bataclan.

Hollande said Wednesday he would speak “not for the sake of French politics, but for the victims of the attacks.” He said he keenly felt the weight of responsibility that night and for the days and weeks after it.

“When the cameras are turned off, you go back to the solitude of the Elysée (presidential palace),” Hollande told told France-Info. “You ask what can I do? … Is what just happened going to change society?”

Wednesday’s hearing paused briefly after one of the defendants appeared to have a medical issue. When it resumed, Abdeslam burst out in fury.

“We should be treated like human beings. We’re not dogs,” he said, before being ordered to be silent.

None of the proceedings will be televised or rebroadcast to the public, but they 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 against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris and a kosher supermarket.

___

Associated Press journalists Angela Charlton, Alex Turnbull and Catherine Gaschka contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Related Categories:

Europe News | Latest News | World News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up