At the specially constituted court of assizes in Paris,
Never, for six months, had the specially constituted Assize Court experienced such tension. This Tuesday, while Salah Abdeslam was interviewed for nearly five hours about the preparations for the November 13 attacks, defense lawyers, as one, decided not to carry out their duties before the end of the day. “The serenity of the hearing has been irreparably tarnished for today,” said one of Salah Abdeslam’s lawyers, Me Olivia Ronen, before packing her things, immediately imitated by her colleagues.
From the president’s first questions and as his line of defense takes shape, the first tensions arise. Salah Abdeslam does not deny everything, but carefully chooses the elements that he wants to bring to justice. So when he admits to accompanying a number of terrorists, he confirms that he knew nothing about the deadly project that brought them back to Europe, or even about their status as fighters while in Syria. And this, even though he spent twenty-eight hours in the car with them – “they never spoke to me about their mission” – and that he was authorized by a man whose name he refuses to reciprocate.
According to him, it was only a matter of coming to the aid of his “brothers of Islam who lived in a war zone.” “I helped them, I couldn’t let them down,” emphasizes Salah Abdeslam, straight in the box, arms dangling. And to compare with the Ukrainians who are currently fleeing the war: “There are people who go looking for people, others who want to do humanitarian work. It’s just that. Wave of outrage in court.
Then why did he bring false identity papers for himself and for the men he brings back to Belgium, when most of the terrorists are European citizens, the president asks? “No comment. Besides, who gave him these papers? “I won’t answer this question. Why does he have two telephone lines?” I don’t know. He even refuses to name three of the five men he admits to having accompanied.
“It’s okay, are you having a baby? †
As soon as the questions are more concrete, specifically on parts of the file, Salah avoids Abdeslam. “I, I’m not naming names, I’m not waving,” he assures, multiplying the provocations to the court, the prosecutor or the lawyers of the civil parties when they insist. “It’s okay, are you having a baby? “, so he lets himself be carried away to Me Sylvie Topaloff who questions him at length on a point that is nevertheless essential: of the five convoys accused of him, he recognizes only two, of which there is irrefutable proof of his presence. He vehemently denies the others, in particular the repatriation of the members of the command on 13 November.
Added to the provocations is the ambivalence of his defense: not to deny those he considers his brothers in arms, while acknowledging only the facts for which there are material elements. So if he denies bringing Bilal Hadfi, a member of the Stade de France commando, and Chakib Akrouh from the terraces to Europe, he is confident he could have picked them up had he been asked. “If you had known that these two people would directly or indirectly participate in these attacks, would you go looking for them? » one of the reviewers asks. Long silence. “It’s a good question,” Salah Abdeslam says. He thinks. “If these two people envisioned attacks, it’s because they had good reasons. […]† But in the frame of mind I was in – I was a party animal, I was having fun, I was going to get married – I don’t think I was going to look for them. Out of fear maybe…’
Salah Abdeslam gets into trouble, loses his temper and makes himself a victim. “If I don’t speak it pleases no one; and when I speak, it is the same,” sighs the accused. On several occasions, during the afternoon, he reproached France for having “ruined” his life, in particular denouncing his conditions of detention. An “unbearable immorality”, according to Me Gérard Chemla, lawyer for the civil parties. At around 5:30 p.m., another battle between the president and one of Salah Abdeslam’s lawyers, Martin Vettes, left a packed house. While the latter accuses him of conducting the hearing, the magistrate replies: “Change jobs! Loud applause is heard. It is too much, the suspension of hearing will not calm the spirits. The trial will resume tomorrow.