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11:19, 10 February 2018

In Paris Terrorism Trial, a Protest of Handful of Words


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In Paris Terrorism Trial, a Protest of Handful of Words

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BRUSSELS — The judges were there, the lawyers and the press — so a lot of journalists that there was a spillover area. The only person largely missing from the trial was the high-profile defendant, the only surviving member of the group accused of carrying out terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and Brussels in 2016.

Salah Abdeslam, 28, who defied a dragnet of French and Belgian police for a lot more than four months as he hid in his hometown haunts following fleeing the attacks in Paris, poked a finger again at the authorities, this time in court.

When asked whether he had anything to say or if he would respond to questions, he was brief and clear: “I defend myself by remaining silent.”

He had a single a lot more message: He did not believe the court could render a just verdict.

“What I observe is that Muslims are judged, treated in the worst of techniques,” he stated. “They are judged mercilessly. There is no presumption of innocence, there is nothing, we’re immediately guilty, voilà. My silence does not mean that I am guilty.”

With those handful of words, and a single additional sentence, Mr. Abdeslam stopped speaking and did not show up for the trial’s second day.

He and an additional man, Sofian Ayeri, are getting prosecuted in the shooting and wounding of 4 Belgian and French police officers whilst Mr. Abdeslam was on the run in March 2016.

The begin of their trial this week was far from the primary occasion in the Paris and Brussels attacks — the trials pertaining to the central plot are still a lot more than a year away. But Mr. Abdeslam’s few words and notable silence may possibly offer you a foretaste of an unsatisfying road ahead for the authorities and victims’ households and close friends.

The strategy appeared to be in keeping with that of many other defendants charged in attacks claimed by the Islamic State in current years.

They consist of Ayoub el Khazzani, who is accused of attempting to open fire in a Thalys train bound from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015, and Mehdi Nemmouche, held in the fatal shooting of 4 people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014.

Why refuse to participate when it is the greatest hope of minimizing your sentence or even getting off altogether? Mr. Abdeslam’s lawyer made a case for his acquittal on numerous grounds, which includes the lack of proof that he pulled the trigger.

“A individual who is accused of a crime has every little thing to drop by remaining silent,” stated Francis Vuillemin, the defense lawyer for Mr. Nemmouche in France, exactly where his client is accused of crimes unrelated to the Jewish museum killings Mr. Vuillemin also represented the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal.

“Because for an accused the ideal lawyer is not the one in the black robe, but the man himself,” he mentioned, adding that he is the one particular who can very best convince a judicial tribunal of his innocence.

Mr. Vuillemin stated that though Mr. Nemmouche might not have helped Belgian investigators, he expects him to testify in trials he faces in France in connection with the jailing of 4 French hostages in Syria. Mr. Vuillemin stated that frequently defendants pick not to speak to investigators, but do speak at their trials.

Nonetheless, Mr. Abdesalam’s lawyer, Sven Mary, stated that although his client was in prison in Belgium quickly following his capture, he was in a cell adjacent to Mr. Nemmouche. He believes the two communicated and that may have led Mr. Abdeslam to alter from initially getting willing to talk with prosecutors to refusing to do so.

Salah AbdeslamCreditBelgian Federal Police, via European Pressphoto Agency

“Isolation in Belgium does not imply you don’t have windows,” Mr. Mary mentioned.

“When you have a neighbor, they can talk to every single other,” he added. “I don’t think it was the greatest thought to put him next to a person like that. What I heard from different people was that he played a part in the sudden modify in Saleh Abdeslam.”

Other lawyers and authorities focused more on Mr. Abdeslam’s self-recusal as a political act of defiance, aimed at a certain audience.

It is also one particular with worrisome implications for both France and Belgium, where his denigration of the idea of an impartial judiciary plays into the currently keen sense that numerous Muslims have that the program is stacked against them.

“It’s a single way to reach out to those Muslims who really feel rejected by system in the first spot,” said Didier Leroy, a investigation fellow at the Royal Higher Institute for Defense, who has also studied the views of young extremists.

Mr. Leroy stated that at this point, the jihadist, extremist “family” is truly the only one particular he has. “He’s trying to assure his own survival in that milieu — it is all about belonging to a group. What else does he have now?”

“Although he wasn’t a particularly religious guy as far as we know, his significant concentrate is to hold the reputation and status in this household that he’s element of or even, by rejecting justice here in Belgium, make himself much more significant,” Mr. Leroy said.

All the lawyers interviewed as effectively as Mr. Leroy prefaced their remarks by saying that short of becoming inside Mr. Abdeslam’s head, it was impossible to say specifically what he was pondering.

But, then, there was yet another reason for silence, pointed out Antoine Vey, who recently served as a defense lawyer for Abdelkader Merah, the brother of Mohammed Merah, who attacked French soldiers and a Jewish school in 2012, in the Toulouse region.

There is a long dissident tradition of refusing to recognize France’s justice program, dating at least to the Algerian war, which resulted in the country’s independence from France, Mr. Vey stated.

He added that while some defendants remained silent so as not to incriminate themselves, other individuals did so “in maintaining with the concept that the trial was a political platform for contesting the authority of the law and the judges.”

“Notably in all the trials that have been held throughout the war in Algeria, these who wanted independence used the trial to clarify to the public that they did not recognize French law and that the judges have been not judges.”

It also appeared that Mr. Abdeslam was pointing to a line of argument and a way of pondering about justice that is quite much in the ideological framework of extremist Islamists: Correct justice can be carried out only by God, and its guidelines are in the Quran. It follows, then, that a secular court can only be a political forum.

“Salah Abdeslam clearly said one point,” said Christian Etelin, a French lawyer who represented Mohammed Merah when he was young and not too long ago represented a man who was located guilty of offering Mr. Merah with the semiautomatic weapon he utilized in the 2012 attacks.

“He said that he does not have to account for himself other than to God,” Mr. Etelin stated. “As a consequence, the justice of males has no capability to understand his method and judge it.”

Mr. Abdeslam’s last words to the court just before falling silent had been: “I trust in Allah, that is all. I am only accountable to God.”

Assia Labbas contributed reporting from Paris.

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Published at Sat, 10 Feb 2018 07:34:09 +0000


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