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Verdict expected on Wednesday in Paris Islamist attacks

Verdict expected on Wednesday in Paris Islamist attacks
Verdict expected on Wednesday in Paris Islamist attacks Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
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By LEA GUEDJ, Ingrid Melander and Tangi Salaün

PARIS - Judges will on Wednesday hand out their verdict in the trial of France's worst peacetime attack, the 2015 killing of 130 people in a coordinated gun-and-bomb rampage by Islamist gunmen across Paris.

The Bataclan music hall, six bars and restaurants and the perimeter of the Stade de France sports stadium were targeted in hours-long attacks that shook France and left deep scars on the country's psyche.

It has been a trial like no others, not only for its exceptional length of 10 months, but also for the time it devoted to allowing victims to testify in detail about their ordeal and their struggles in overcoming it, while families of those killed spoke of how hard it was to move on.

"We became this huge community which wanted justice to exist, and that was very strong," said Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan attack, in which 90 died, and the president of Life for Paris, a victims' association.

"I think we can be proud of what we achieved," Denouveaux said. "The trial overcame anything we would have wished for, because terrorists spoke, terrorists in a way answered to our testimonies, that was so unexpected, that never happens in terrorist trials."

Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect, who faces possible life imprisonment without parole, a sentence only handed out four times in France so far, started the trial by proudly saying he was a "soldier" of Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

But he later apologised to the victims.

"When Salah Abdeslam decided to speak to apologise, I don't know if it was genuine or not but still he felt he had to do the effort, so that counts," Denouveaux said.

Abdeslam is the only surviving member of the group suspected of carrying out the attacks. But he says he chose not to detonate his explosive vest and on Monday urged the court not to give him a harsh sentence.

"I made mistakes, it's true, but I'm not a murderer, I'm not a killer", he said.

Thirteen other people, 10 of whom are also in custody, were also in the courtroom, accused of crimes ranging from helping provide the attackers with weapons or cars to planning to take part in the attack. Six more were tried in absentia.

The verdict and sentencing are expected from 1500 GMT, but could also come later in the evening. The ruling can be challenged on appeal.

Defendants are not required to enter a plea in French trials.

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