On the last day of the defense pleadings at the trial of the Paris attacks, in front of a full house, the lawyers for the main accused, Salah Abdeslam, challenged at the bar the incompressible life sentence required by the prosecution. Selected pieces.
Will Salah Abdeslam escape the incompressible life prison required by the prosecution? In any case, this is what the two lawyers of the only survivor of the attacks of November 13, Ms.are Olivia Ronen and Martin Vettes, Friday June 24. “Our task is painful […], it can be difficult to bear when you are already in so much pain. But it is essential. It is all the more so since Salah Abdeslam has chosen not to speak for six years”, asserts Me Vettes under the watchful eye of the accused, surgical mask on his face and white T-shirt close to the body.
And the lawyer to continue: “I hope that your intimate conviction is not already made. Will this man one day be able to return to society or is he definitively lost? […] Many have arrived with certainties, except that our job is to shake those certainties. The prosecution is bringing heavy, very heavy, too heavy charges.
“He is not a violent person”
The lawyer first deplores that Salah Abdeslam was judged “either as a bloodthirsty barbarian, or as a fanatic breaking with our values”. Because he “does not fit into either of these two boxes. He is not a violent person.”
The defense then questions: is he cowardly, as some have argued? “He appeared almost every day at the hearings. If he had been a coward, he would have remained in the mousetrap. Salah Abdeslam took away all the testimonies of the victims, be certain of that. He did not always react we were expecting him. I understand that his phrases are indignant, [avec] his disastrous words, his unexpected unfiltered outings.”
Certainly, “Salah Abdeslam is not a good communicator. The media feasted on his remarks to maintain the figure of the devil.” But for M.e Vettes, over the course of the hearings, “Salah Abdeslam showed his true face. Obviously, we are not going to give him a medal because he listened to the victims. But can we admit that it is not pleasant to receive the words of victims every day? One thing is certain for the defense, “the victims had their indisputable part in the evolution of Salah Abdeslam at the hearing”.
“His tears were in no way a defense strategy”
Martin Vettes wants proof of this “the apologies and the ecumenical tears with regard to all the testimonies of the victims. Sitting in the box, he received these words for him. He has not finished remembering these depositions. Her tears were in no way a defense strategy. They were neither planned nor requested.”
After trying to justify the accused’s unfortunate speeches, his lawyer then tries to minimize the importance of his involvement in the Islamic State organization. No, Salah Abdeslam did not know everything about the project, few people knew the details. It’s called compartmentalization. I know it’s become a cream pie, but it exists.”
Then the magistrate returns to the radicalization of his client: “The passage in prison is not a tipping point.” Nor did he become radicalized at the Béguines, a bar in Molenbeek which some would like to make a “centrifuge for terrorists, an incubator for jihadists, and even the advanced point of the Islamic State in Europe”, ironically the lawyer.
“But then where did he become radicalized?” Questions the defense. It is in the room of his brother Brahim that is “the genesis, the matrix of his radicalization”, continues Me Vettes. The defense depicts the scene of a Salah Abdeslam entering his brother’s room while the latter is watching an Islamic State propaganda video, designed to inspire young people to take action. He sees civilians being killed in Syria, is silent at first and then joins the Islamic State, thinking he is doing good, says the lawyer. “He’s not a sociopath, he’s not a fanatic. He is completely of his time. He is indignant, like all young people of his age”, explains Me Vettes, alluding to the famous book “Indignez-vous” by Stéphane Hessel.
“He didn’t take any Kalashnikovs, didn’t shoot anyone”
The silence long maintained by Salah Abdeslam “did not facilitate the orientation of this file. By not speaking of the dead, by taking all the crimes for himself. While he did not take any Kalashnikovs, did not shoot person. He may pay for them too”, argues Martin Vettes.
“Some people warn us to keep our distance with Salah Abdeslam. But we don’t want to defend him from afar, or from above, as if he were less than nothing, a retard. From distance, there is enough in society already. The prosecution asks you to make it impassable for life. Our role as lawyers is to reduce these gaps. We do not judge animals, devils, but humans, even if it is hard to hear.”
To judge and judge well, “it takes a lot of courage”, concludes Mr.e Vettes. You must not judge by the abyssal suffering of the victims. […] I ask you to make the effort to ask yourself a question: will the pain make us better? We need to find the balance after the chaos. Yes, we had a beautiful trial in a beautiful room, but all that decorum is incidental. Whatever the setting, justice is only beautiful when it is well done.”
Adjournment before Olivia Ronen’s oral argument.