Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023|
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PARIS — The lone survivor of a team of Islamic State extremists who terrorized Paris in 2015 was convicted Wednesday of murder and other charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the deadliest peacetime attacks in French history.
The special terrorism court also convicted 19 other men involved in the assault on the Bataclan concert hall, cafes and the national stadium, which killed 130 people and injured hundreds, some permanently maimed. It also led to intensified French military action against extremists abroad and a lasting shift in France’s security posture at home.
Survivors and victims’ families emerged from the packed courtroom dazed or exhausted after an excruciating nine-month trial that’s been crucial in their quest for justice and closure.
Chief suspect Salah Abdeslam was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise. The court found that his explosives vest malfunctioned, dismissing his argument that he ditched the vest because he decided not to follow through with his part of the attack on the night of Nov. 13, 2015.
The other nine attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by police that night.
Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Belgian, was given France’s most severe sentence possible. The sentence of life without parole has only been pronounced four times in the country — for crimes related to rape and murder of minors. Neither he nor his lawyer spoke publicly after the verdict.
Of the other defendants, 18 were given various terrorism-related convictions, and one was convicted on a lesser fraud charge. Some were given life sentences; others walked free after being sentenced to time served.
They have 10 days to appeal. The sentences were broadly expected, and those present expressed little surprise; mainly, a bit of relief.
“I hope to be able to put the word ‘victim’ into the past,” said Bataclan survivor Arthur Denouveaux.
“When things like this happen you have no reparation possible. That’s why you have justice,” he said, even if “justice can’t do everything.”
During the trial, Abdeslam initially proclaimed his radicalism but later appeared to evolve, weeping, apologizing to victims and pleading with judges to forgive his “mistakes.”
For months, the packed main chamber and 12 overflow rooms in the 13th century Justice Palace heard harrowing accounts by the victims, along with testimony from Abdeslam. The other defendants were largely accused of helping with logistics or transportation. At least one is accused of a direct role in the deadly March 2016 attacks in Brussels, which also was claimed by the Islamic State group.
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