Attacks of November 13 in Paris: the unanswered questions at the end of the trial

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The verdict of the trial of the attacks of Paris must fall this Wednesday evening. Exact role of Salah Abdeslam and Mohamed Abrini, origin of the weapons… Nine months of hearings will not have made it possible to obtain all the answers to the questions raised by the investigation.

End of the trial of the Paris attacks
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They have been confined since Monday in a secure barracks in the Paris region. The five professional magistrates composing the special assize court of Paris, as well as their four substitutes will not join the courthouse until this Wednesday, at the end of the day. They will announce their fate to the fourteen defendants present at the trial.

The epilogue of 9 months of hearing, which will not have made it possible to sweep all the gray areas of the terrorist attacks which took the lives of 132 people and left more than 400 injured . During these 148 days of hearings, the defendants took refuge behind their right to silence, or oscillated between different versions.

Has Salah Abdeslam given up on blowing himself up?

The only surviving member of the November 13 attackers, Salah Abdeslam faces life imprisonment. The prosecution also requires an incompressible security measure , which, in French law, offers no certainty of release one day, even after 30 years in prison. ” It is equivalent to a slow death sentence ” pleaded Me Olivia Ronen. Abdeslam’s lawyer did not oppose a heavy prison sentence, but challenged the principle of irreducible life, for someone who would have withdrawn by refusing to blow himself up and kill.

This is precisely one of the main questions that has not found a definitive answer, despite 4 years of Franco-Belgian investigation followed by a river trial. Silent during the investigation, Salah Abdeslam was first provocative at the start of the trial, insisting: ” I am a fighter of the Islamic State “. Over the interrogations, he ended up delivering his version, explaining that he had given up at the last minute on blowing himself up in a bar in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. If so, did he back down “out of humanity” or out of fear of dying?

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The Frenchman, a child from Molenbeek, let himself cry at the hearing, and asked for forgiveness from the victims. The prosecution has another version, that of a manufacturing defect in Abdeslam’s explosive belt. The public prosecutor also considers that he had a ” key mission ” within the terrorist commando, since he escorted from Germany or Hungary the other members of the cell, who came from Syria.

What was the role of Mohamed Abrini?

“The Man in the Hat”. Filmed by surveillance cameras during the Zaventem attacks in March 2016 , Mohamed Abrini fled without blowing himself up. Best friend of Abdeslam, this Belgian-Moroccan had also accompanied the members of the Parisian commando, on the eve of the attacks of November 13.

During the trial, he said he was ” scheduled for the 13th “, before withdrawing the day before the attacks. As with Abdeslam, his lawyers hope to see a prison sentence replace life imprisonment. However, the vagueness remains on the exact reasons for his flight and the extent of the plans of the Parisian cell.

Did the terrorists have other targets?

According to the investigation, the terrorists seem to have concocted several scenarios, including the kidnapping of a manager of the Belgian nuclear study center or the kidnapping of a police officer, with a view to an exchange with one of their own in prison. The French national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office is convinced – but without having been able to prove it – that an attack was to take place at Schiphol airport, in the Netherlands, on the same day as the attacks in Paris.

The Swede Osama Krayem and the Tunisian Sofien Ayari did not give sufficient explanations on what they went to do, the evening of the attacks, around the Dutch airport. Both defendants face life imprisonment.

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Where did the weapons come from?

The ammunition used on the evening of November 13 could have been bought over the counter, in an armory in Wavre. The origin of Kalashnikovs remains mysterious. A track led the investigators to Verviers and Liège where one of the defendants, Mohamed Bakkali, would have contacted a certain Mohammed E. (not tried in Paris), to obtain six Kalashnikovs.

Another track leads to Rotterdam, where the accused El Haddad Asufi would have gone to look for “Clio”. For the investigators, who were unable to obtain evidence, this code name obviously does not refer to French brand cars, but to weapons.

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