A trial like no other in the history of France

The trial of 20 suspects in the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in the Paris region, which opened on Wednesday, is the largest in French history, with nearly 1,800 victims, including survivors and relatives of whom they died, among the plaintiffs; 330 lawyers representing them and the accused; and five presiding judges. At least 145 days of hearings are scheduled until May 2022, when a verdict is expected. Jowharbreaks down the composition of the court and the timing of the trial.

The trial, which began nearly six years after the terrorist attacks that left 130 dead and 350 injured in central Paris and Saint-Denis, just north of the French capital, is taking place in a custom-designed room within the Palais de Justice. a national monument on the Île de la Cité, an island in central Paris.

The court is tasked with trying all 20 defendants, including Salah Abdeslam, the sole survivor of the commando team, led by the Islamic State group, that carried out the attacks. Fourteen of the defendants face trial in person, while six more are being tried in absentia.

Jowharlooked at the key participants, stages, and trial rules:

How long will the trial last?

Wednesday’s trial is expected to last about nine months, a duration that could vary depending on the number of civil parties that choose to testify – the parties can do so until the last minute – but also on the contingencies of the process.

Hearings in the current trial are scheduled for every Tuesday through Friday with a start time of 12:30 pm to avoid having to register everyone again after the noon lunch break.

September is dedicated to presenting police and forensic evidence. October will be dedicated to the testimony of the victims. From November to December, officials, including former French President François Hollande, will testify, as will family members of the attackers.

From January to March next year, the defendants will be questioned about the chronology of the events of November 13, 2015, from the preparations for the attacks to the attacks and their aftermath. Abdeslam will be questioned several times.

In early April, experts will give psychological evaluations. Final arguments follow in May, and if the court maintains its current calendar, the verdict will be announced on May 24 and 25.

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Who is the presiding judge?

Five magistrates, a president and four advisers, are in charge of trying this case. As in all terrorism cases in France, there are no juries. Four additional magistrates are also attending the proceedings and can serve as replacements if necessary.

The presiding magistrate, Jean-Louis Périès, has headed a chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal since 2014 and has 40 years of experience as a judge. Périès presided over the appeal of Abdelhakim Dekhar, who shot a photographer in the offices of the French weekly Libération in 2013, and the first trial for a Molotov cocktail attack on police officers in the Parisian suburb of Viry-Châtillon that left a police officer behind. in a life-threatening condition.

“[Périès] he is a magistrate with a sense of humanity, an essential dimension for a trial of this magnitude, “said Jean-Michel Hayat, first president of the Paris Court of Appeal.

On Wednesday, Périès acknowledged the extraordinary nature of the November 13 attacks, which changed the political and legal landscape of France, and the trial to come. France only emerged from the declared state of emergency in the wake of the attacks in 2017, after incorporating many of its toughest measures into law.

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

Trial advisers include Frédérique Aline, who presided over the appeal of former French Minister Georges Tron, who was convicted of rape in February, and Xavière Simeoni, who as presiding magistrate sent former French President Jacques Chirac to trial on charges of embezzlement of public funds. in 2009.

Three prosecutors are in charge of defending the interests of society in the trial. Camille Hennetier heads France’s National Anti-Terrorism Investigation Body (PNAT), where prosecutors Nicolas Le Bris and Nicolas Braconnay also work.

Le Bris and Braconnay met at the French National School of the Judiciary and later met with Hennetier at the Paris prosecutor’s anti-terrorism department.

“We choose to work together because we know each other well,” Hennetier told France Inter. “We have the same conception of our work, of what the role of the prosecutor is, we have the same vision of the case.”

Eleven of the 20 defendants in the trial are incarcerated and will appear in custody in a large, secure glass enclosure in the courtroom. Three defendants were imprisoned during the investigation of the November 13 attacks and later released under judicial supervision; they will appear free in the audience, outside the glass box.

The remaining six defendants are being tried in absentia. They are alleged accomplices, sponsors or suspected intellectual authors of the attacks, and five are presumed to have died, most likely in Iraq or Syria. Because the French Ministry of Justice has no proof of his death, they have been referred to the court. The whereabouts of one of the accused is unknown.

Most of the defendants face the maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted of complicity in the attacks. Only Abdeslam, the main defendant, is charged with murder.

What charges and possible sentences do the defendants face?

Abdeslam is charged with murder in an organized group in connection with a terrorist company, which would result in life imprisonment with a sentence. Ten of the other defendants who are being tried for complicity in the murders also face life sentences.

Eight other accused of terrorist conspiracy face 20-year prison terms. The last defendant, accused of hiding a terrorist, faces a maximum sentence of six years.

Will the trial be filmed or recorded?

Like the trial for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the proceedings are being filmed for the French national archives. They are not being televised or retransmitted to the public, but for the first time an audio recording of the trial is being broadcast via web radio, with a delay of 30 minutes, for civil parties, using a personal access code, reports France Inter. Victims of attacks who do not want to be present in the courtroom can therefore follow the hearing and have access to psychological support.

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Is the trial open to the public?

Members of the public can attend the trial even if they are not civil parties, lawyers or journalists, but in practice it will be difficult: with more than 1,700 civil parties and 300 lawyers expected to attend, the main courtroom is reserved; There are less than a hundred seats available for French citizens who want to watch the proceedings in a video room, France Inter reports.

( Jowharwith AP)

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