Beginning of the trial of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris

PARIS – Marilyn Garnier, survivor of a terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, will never be able to forget this evening...


PARIS – Marilyn Garnier, survivor of a terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, will never be able to forget this evening.

It was November 13, 2015. Noises of firecrackers erupted from behind the crowd. Her partner pushed her to the ground, where they lay motionless, overwhelmed by the smell of blood and gunpowder. Bursts of gunfire punctuated a deadly silence.

“At that point, you don’t think you’re going to survive,” recalls Ms. Garnier, now 30.

Almost six years later, the historic trial of the perpetrators of the 2015 attacks, which also targeted an area outside the national football stadium and the terraces of cafes and restaurants in central Paris, began on Wednesday in the French capital. . It is expected to last a record nine months.

Of the 10 attackers, nine were killed. Most carried out suicide bombings as part of the assault or were killed by police, including in a shooting a few days later when the the authorities raided a hiding place in the north of Paris.

Twenty men, including the only surviving assailant and others accused of helping plan and coordinate the assault, will be tried by a panel of judges. More than 300 lawyers and nearly 1,800 plaintiffs will take part in the trial in a courtroom that can accommodate 550 people, built especially for the monumental proceedings. The proceedings will be the first to be available to complainants on live Internet radio, and will also be filmed.

“This is the trial of all superlatives,” said Éric Dupond-Moretti, French Minister of Justice, this week at the courthouse on Île de la Cité, an island on the Seine which will be partly locked by the police for the duration of the trial. “The longest trial in our history. “

While the November 2015 attacks saw the nation unite in mourning, it also instilled deep fears of terrorism. They came months after death shootings To kosher supermarket and in the offices of Charlie hebdo, a satirical journal, and deep wounds in French society that have not yet fully healed. Unresolved debates continue on the place of Islam in France, immigration, and the balance between security and civil liberties.

François Hollande, then Socialist President of France, says Le Parisien that his mandate, “whether we like it or not, bears the traces of what happened on November 13, and, more generally, of Islamist terrorism.”

“Each time a new terrorist attack occurs, it plunges me back into this dark night,” said Mr. Hollande, who will testify at the trial, a first for a former president.

For some survivors, a slamming door or car flashback may be enough.

Ms. Garnier escaped the Bataclan unharmed after breaking into an emergency exit. But she wants to see the accused in person and wants the world to understand what the victims went through: exhausting hyper-vigilance, endless medical procedures, the administrative obstacle course to obtain redress. Official Fund for Victims of France, isolation from friends and family, broken careers.

“To measure the real impact this event has had on our lives,” said Ms. Garnier. “So that they really realize that six years later, it’s still very, very close.”

Stephanie Zarev, 48, who was also at the Bataclan that night, said she suffered for years with panic attacks and flashbacks. She avoided watching or reading about the attacks.

“But now,” she said, “I need to know.”

She hopes the dozens of investigators, officials and experts who are expected to testify will help her understand how the attacks took place. His fear is that the trial, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and coinciding with the French presidential election of 2022, will be used to score political points.

While France has avoided a massive attack since a massacre of trucks in 2016 in Nice, a chain of smaller stabbing and shootings have kept the fears of terrorism particularly acute.

“In France, there was a before and after November 13, 2015, just as in the United States there was a before and after September 11,” said Georges Fenech, a former lawmaker who led a parliamentary inquiry into the 2015 attacks who found breaches of the French security services.

In both cases, “we were victims of new forms of terrorist threats hitherto unknown, and which called into question all our strategies”, he declared, acknowledging that France, which has pass a raft of bills against terrorism and extremism in recent years, had implemented many of the recommendations of the investigation.

November 13 assailants were mostly French citizens who, in a cleverly orchestrated plot, had traveled to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria for military training before returning to France.

The men accused in the trial, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s, face a range of charges, including of complicity in murder and hostage-taking, as well as of organizing a terrorist plot . Most face sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

Prosecutors say many defendants aided the Nov. 13 assailants by renting hiding places to hide weapons and explosives, driving cell members across borders, or securing money and false documents. Fourteen will attend the trial in person after being arrested mainly in France and Belgium, while six others, still wanted, will be tried in absentia.

Several are presumed to have been killed by Western airstrikes against the territory ISIS controlled in Iraq and Syria, including Osama Atar, a Belgian-Moroccan who investigators suspect of having ordered the attacks, and Fabien and Jean-Michel Clain, two French jihadists who registered the group’s claim of responsibility for the murders.

Xavier Nogueras, lawyer for one of the defendants, said the length and scale of the trial were “dizzying”. But “the fact that there are so many people involved made us take our time,” he said. “It will also give us a comprehensive understanding of what happened. “

Only Salah Abdeslam, who prosecutors say is the only surviving member of the group that committed the murders on the night of November 13, is directly charged with murder, attempted murder and hostage-taking.

Mr Abdeslam, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who lived in Belgium, played a key role in the attack, prosecutors said, but did not detonate his explosive vest. Investigators believe it malfunctioned and fled within hours, causing a month manhunt.

Mr. Abdeslam, who arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday under close police escort, did not cooperate with investigators. During a trial in 2018 in Belgium, where he was sentenced to shoot at officers in Brussels while he was on the run, he barely said a word.

However, plaintiffs like Fabienne Kirchheim, whose brother Jean-Jacques Kirchheim, 44, was killed at the Bataclan, let’s hope justice will be served.

“Through these attacks, the values ​​of the Republic have been criticized,” Ms. Kirchheim said. “Now I expect this same Republic to judge and punish, in a fair and democratic manner, these attackers.”

But others have mixed feelings about the spotlight. Karena Garnier, another survivor of the Bataclan, dreaded the trial and did not intend to become a plaintiff.

The attention paid to the trial felt “like a huge invasion of privacy from this tragic event that happened to me,” said Ms. Garnier, 45, US resident in France. But after speaking with other members of a group of victims to which she belongs, she said she had changed her mind, although the trial will not erase years of nerve-wracking anxiety. or episodes of brain fog interfering with work.

“It’s really just to get a fence,” she said. “And be there for my friends.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Beginning of the trial of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris
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