End of the trial of the Paris attacks: what to remember before “our” event trial

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The trial of the November 13 attacks has ended in Paris. If it has accumulated records, it has also produced useful lessons for “our” event trial, that of the attacks in Brussels next October.

End of the trial of the Paris attacks
© BelgaImage

The longest, the most expensive, the most publicized. 296 days. More than 60 million euros. 141 accredited media worldwide. The November 13 attacks trial, also called the Paris attacks trial, has come to an end. After having punctuated the media life – especially – French for nearly 10 months. Hundreds of reviews, thousands of analyses, and a few books to come. Including the long-awaited V13, from the pen of Emmanuel Carrère, which will be released next September.

The extent of this trial is justified by the seriousness of the facts and the number of victims: 131 dead and 413 injured, 99 seriously. It is, above all, to them that the trial has benefited. It allowed the survivors to be able to externalize their anger and their traumas. This exercise was, however, not without risks. “ We must salute the professionalism of the French judicial system, notes Professor Michel Liégeois, president of the Louvain-Europe Institute of Political Sciences. The victims were listened to but these very strong emotional charges did not distort the judicial framework. 

This exceptional trial was not one of exceptions. Everything was rigorous. The implications of each have been carefully considered, proven. The sentences requested by the public prosecutor are well differentiated. ” This professionalism is accompanied by another characteristic. “The defense generally opted for a technical strategy rather than the strategy of rupture that had been used, for example, by Me Vergès when he defended the terrorist Carlos. He intended to reverse the perspective by questioning the legitimacy of the court or by making the accused a victim. 

However, this type of strategy is generally the source of great tension. But it was not used here and therefore both the professionalism of the judicial institution and the defense strategy allowed a relative form of societal appeasement. Either a form of explanation that allows a better understanding of each other. This exercise allowed a form of “depolarization” and a rehumanization of both victims and perpetrators.

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It should be noted that during the months that the trial of the Paris attacks lasted, the three defendants who appeared free were never bothered by the civil parties. This appeasement could occur in the trial of the attacks of March 22 which will be held in Brussels from next October. This will depend in particular on the adoption or not of this famous strategy of rupture by one or the other defense lawyer. But this choice is quite plausible. Among other things because Salah Abdeslam , after the Paris trial, knows he has no chance of getting out of prison. At the trial next October, he will therefore have nothing more to lose…

Common Accused

The defendants of the next trial of the attacks of March 22 are ten. They are Oussama Atar (who died in Syria), Bilal El Makhoukhi, Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa, the Smail and Ibrahim Farisi brothers, Salah Abdeslam, Mohamed Abrini, Sofien Ayari, Osama Krayem and Ali El Haddad Asufi. The latter five appeared at the trial of the November 13 attacks. In addition, 960 people have now joined as civil parties, including victims (340 injured), associations of victims and relatives of deceased victims.

Trial, instructions for use

On Monday, September 12, a preliminary hearing will be held, with a view to the composition of the list of witnesses who will be called upon to testify during the trial of the attacks of March 22. On October 10, 2022, it will be the turn of the jury composition hearing. The hearing on the merits will begin on Thursday, October 13, 2022. The trial is estimated to last between six and nine months. The trial of Marc Dutroux, in 2004, which had lasted a little over four months is, for the moment, still the longest trial in Belgian judicial history.

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Lessons from Paris?

It is likely that the schedule of hearings for the trial of the attacks of March 22 in Brussels will fit, in the long run, on that which settled the trial of November 13. That is to say at the end of the morning, or even later. Security constraints that require searches and checks have delayed the start of the hearings. Another lesson to be learned from the Paris trial: the victims who wore a red choker signaled that they did not want to express themselves in the media. An innovation to import to us?

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