“We attacked France, targeting residents and civilians, but there was nothing personal,” Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the November 13, 2015 attacks, said at the opening of the hearing on Wednesday in Paris. Nothing but angry faces in the room.
“The goal here is not to move the wound deeply with the knife, but to be honest,” he added in a calm tone. He said it as if he was talking about football or some other trifle. Without the slightest emotion, without the slightest insight into guilt.
The attacks in France that killed 130 people were in response to the “French bombing of the Islamic State in Syria.”
The head of the Special Criminal Court gave the floor to each of the 14 defendants present so that they could make a “spontaneous but brief statement” about the charges against them. Later in the process, they will have time to defend themselves and explain their story in detail.
There was an intense silence in the main courtroom as the accused took turns speaking through the microphone. Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the commando, finally spoke. “Hello everyone,” he said.
Holland is lying
Salah Abdeslam, wearing a black mask over his trimmed beard, a dark shirt and a dark woolen jacket on his back, spoke for about five minutes. “This is the true Islam,” he said.
“François Hollande said we fought against France for their values, but it’s a lie,” he added, blaming “French planes that bombed ISIS, men, women, children.” “François Hollande knew the risks he was taking in attacking the Islamic State in Syria,” he added.
“The minimum is to tell the truth, it is often said that I am provocative, but this is not true, I want to be honest,” Salah Abdel Salam, 32, also said. “I won’t hurt anyone here.”
Some began to cry over the seats of the bourgeois parties.
During a brief adjournment session, 37-year-old Sophie Barra, a Bataclan survivor, did not hide her anger. “Instead of saying he was sorry, he justified what he had done,” she told an AFP journalist. “He’s showing it off because he knows whatever he says will get passed on.”
“I will testify, I am waiting for his reply, to tell him how November 13 was, to see people die on me. I will tell him in the witness stand that I will not lose sight of him and I hope he will not lose sight of me,” said the woman.
“Small” participation in the attacks
Before Abd al-Salam was given the floor, several of his co-defendants expressed their condolences to the victims, but some also tried to downplay their role.
Even Yassin Attar pleaded not guilty.
Others such as Abdullah Shuaa, Ali Olgadi and Farid Kharkhach could not hide their feelings. Muhammad Abrini insisted that his involvement in the incidents was “fairly minor”.