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November 13: an investigator recounts the “race against time” in an “unprecedented investigation” – The trial of the attacks of November 13, 2019


The trial of the November 13 attacks got to the heart of the matter on Monday with the first testimony of an investigator from the French anti-terrorism services, interrupted after a few minutes by the main accused Salah Abdeslam.

Police Commissioner, “Sdat 99”, the identification under which he files, is responsible for presenting the investigation. Dark suit, pink shirt, fast flow, he speaks at the bar under cover of anonymity but without a mask.

From the start of his presentation before the Special Assize Court, the only surviving member of the November 13, 2015 commandos, Salah Abdeslam, began to scream, without a microphone, from the accused’s box: “when is it?” that we will have the floor? ! “Mr. Abdeslam, if you continue you will leave the box”, warns him, calmly but firmly, President Jean-Louis Périès. He has to do it several times before the 31-year-old Franco-Moroccan ends up being silent.

1,000 investigators on the bridge

The untimely intervention of the accused, who risks life imprisonment, did not disturb the investigator. In detail, he describes the “challenges” of an “unprecedented investigation” with “simultaneous findings on eight crime scenes”, while proceeding “with a careful collection of all traces of clues which may be microscopic”. More than 1000 investigators were put on the bridge, and confronted with “unspeakable scenes”, specifies the police officer, “in a pattern of race against the clock” and “risk of over-attack”.

Sprawling, the investigations carried out in Europe and beyond have made it possible to reconstruct the preparation and progress of the attacks led by the Islamic State (IS) group, which left 130 dead and hundreds injured in Paris and Saint-Denis. Even if questions remain, the investigators managed in four years to identify the sponsors, planners, fireworks, escorts and intermediaries of the cell, as well as their journey from Syria to Belgium then France, via the migrant route.

Survivors and relatives of victims heard at the end of September

The survivors of the attacks and relatives of the victims will have the floor at the end of September and for five weeks to put their words on that night of horror, evoke the memory of those they have lost and describe the evils of their life after.

The defendants are not expected to be questioned on the merits of the case until January. Eleven of them, including Salah Abdeslam, appear in custody. Three appear free under judicial supervision. Six others are judged by default, including the alleged sponsor of Operation Osama Atar and the French “voices” of his claim, Fabien and Jean-Michel Clain, all three presumed killed in a Western strike in Syria.