Salah Abdeslam has gone on trial in Paris. The “Belgian” man is the sole survivor of the group that planned and executed the Islamic terror attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. The most well-known action on that horrible day took place at the Bataclan Café, where ninety people were executed. Yet for some reason the Bataclan isn’t mentioned in either of the two articles below.
The trial began today, and Mr. Abdeslam declared his allegiance to the Islamic State in his opening remarks. The entire judicial process is expected to last nine months, with a possible verdict handed down next May.
The November 13 attacks: The undersides of an extraordinary trial
September 7, 2021
by Bahar Makooi
Historic and unprecedented in its size, the November 13 trial attacks required more than two years of preparation in order to set up a titanic and highly secure judicial system. Over the course of nine months, more than 300 witnesses will be heard by the Special Criminal Court of Paris, which will be charged with judging 20 accused, including Salah Abdeslam.
It is the largest criminal hearing ever held in France. In a few days, the trial of the terrorist attacks that produced 130 deaths and 350 injured in Paris and Saint-Denis will begin in the capital.
Beginning September 8 and lasting 9 months, the Special Criminal Court of Paris will be charged with judging 20 accused, including Salah Abdeslam, the lone survivor among the commandos tasked by the organization Islamic State with committing terrorist attacks in France. Facing trial, 14 accused will be present, and 6 will be judged in absentia.
A titanic judicial setup was planned because this trial is extraordinary, first of all because of the elevated number of civil parties: Almost 1,800 people of some 20 different nationalities. Some 300 witnesses will be heard, essentially next of kin of the victims and some survivors of the attacks, represented by almost as many lawyers.
This trial is also unprecedented in its emotional weight and its length: At least 145 days of hearings are scheduled until May 25, 2022. Holding a trial of this magnitude till its end constitutes a challenge without precedent for the judicial institution, particularly in a time of pandemic and a still-elevated terrorist threat.
A custom-built courtroom
From a logistical point of view, the judicial setup required two years of preparation and the construction of a special, highly-secured courtroom in the heart of the historic Palace of Justice at the Île de la Cité in Paris.
This principal courtroom will be able to accommodate up to 550 people. An ultra-modern room, without any windows, custom-built in the middle of the famous Salle des Pas Perdus, and eventually removable. About 15 other rooms of the Appellate Court will be able to be utilized to broadcast the arguments according to the number of people, for a total capacity of 2,000 seats.
A web radio for the civil parties and psychological assistance
From the main room, eight cameras, technically controlled, will film the entirety of the trial. But no image is supposed to leave the special criminal court because these recordings will be destined exclusively for the audio-visual archives of the court.
Among the thousands of persons constituting civil parties, those who don’t attend the sessions will be able to follow them on Internet radio. This will be the first time that a device of this type has been put in place for a criminal trial. Only the sound will be broadcast, in a slight delay of a half-hour, under ultra-secure conditions. A number for psychological assistance will be placed at the disposition of the listeners.
On the security side, the terrorist threat being persistent, the number of gendarmes and police has not been disclosed, but a considerable security perimeter will be in place, forcing the residents of the quarter and trial participants to undergo identity checks.
A million-page investigative file
The first witnesses are expected to take the stand beginning on Monday September 13. But before that, the president of the court will read his report, summarizing the 542 volumes of the investigative file. That is a file of a million pages, equivalent to 53 linear meters.
These historic trials filmed for the archives of justice
The victims will take the stand for five weeks, from the end of September to the end of October, telling about this night of horror in 2015. The court will interrogate the fourteen accused beginning in 2022.
Twelve of the twenty accused are facing life imprisonment. Three of accused, against whom the charges are less serious, are free under judicial supervision.
If the court keeps to its deadlines, the verdict could be rendered in May 2022.