the irreducible life sentence required against Salah Abdeslam

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Nine months after the opening of the trial for the attacks of November 13, and after three days of requisitions, the three general attorneys requested, on Friday, incompressible life imprisonment against Salah Abdeslam.

At an extraordinary trial, an exceptional sentence. The Advocates General have requested life imprisonment against Salah Abdeslam, with an “incompressible” security period. This penalty, the heaviest of the penal code, makes the possibility of obtaining a sentence adjustment and therefore a release very small. It has only very rarely been requested and pronounced only four times in the past. “We can only note that, despite his tears, steeped in ideology, he was unable to express remorse”, revealed general counsel Camille Hennetier.

The prosecution formulated vis-à-vis the nineteen other defendants sentences ranging from five years in prison to life. The public prosecutor notably requested life imprisonment with a 22-year security sentence against the Belgian Mohammed Abrini, “the man in the hat” of the Brussels attacks.

The Special Assize Court, composed solely of professional magistrates, is not required to follow these requisitions. If it pronounces an unlimited safety period, it will also have to specifically justify its decision. In the event of “real life”, the convict may, however, after thirty years spent in prison, ask the sentencing court to reconsider this impossibility.

Since Wednesday, the three representatives of the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat), Camille Hennetier, Nicolas Braconnay and Nicolas Le Bris, have taken turns for nearly fifteen hours in a long three-voice story, dissecting the meticulousness of the logistics of the attacks, starting from the genesis of murderous motivations to the ultimate attacks. From the memory of a magistrate, the exercise is a first.

Friday afternoon, it was first Nicolas Le Bris who opened the last part of the requisitions, returning to the attacks near the Stade de France, on the Parisian terraces and at the Bataclan, which left 130 dead and 350 wounded. “Almost simultaneously, the lions will enter Paris and Saint-Denis,” he said, referring to the “lions of the caliphate” of which the Islamic State organization speaks. “Those who committed these heinous crimes are nothing but vulgar terrorists, criminals”, defeated the Advocate General in a calm tone.

Some 397 stories of suffering

Were these places chosen at random? The Advocate General doubts it. The targets chosen are not random, “every time, they are crowded terraces” which are at street angles which allow “a very wide angle of fire” and several “paths of escape”.

Nicolas Le Bris then evokes – not without emotion in his voice – the concert hall targeted by the terrorists. “All the people who revealed themselves there at the time of the arrival of the jihadists must be taken as hostages of the latter.” Taking over the testimonies of “suffering” of the victims, the Advocate General admits “having taken full face” the 397 accounts of victims filed at the bar, mixing survivors and relatives of the deceased. “Before hearing these stories, my colleagues and I had not yet become aware of all this pain.”

The only solution to avoid the deluge of “nuts and grapeshot”, flee at the risk of his life, “play dead or become tiny”. In the room, “the blood of the victims mixes in a gigantic extended and viscous puddle”. A “sweet November evening that ends in a nightmare”. In short, “shattered lives”.

“Misplaced Loyalty”

No question for the magistrate to ignore the “bravery and courage of the police” and the “first responders” of the Bataclan. Their action was “really decisive”, he insisted, also welcoming the BRI, the Research and Intervention Brigade, and the Raid.

Then the second general counsel, Nicolas Braconnay, took over the requisitions. He spoke in a clear voice about the aftermath of the attacks, the escape, the hiding places. And in particular the return of Salah Abdeslam to Belgium. The opportunity to return to the cases of Mohammed Amri, Hamza Attou and Ali Oulkadi, all accused of having helped Salah Abdeslam in his escape. Nicolas Braconnay denounced the “misplaced loyalty to a neighborhood friend”, a certain psychological state, but also “an ideological complacency for jihadist violence – an atmosphere in which they had been bathed for several months”.

After a suspension of the session, Camille Hennetier brought the last elements of the requisitions. The Advocate General, calm and serene, returned to “the last moments of the terrorist cell”. Nine terrorists died after the attacks and the raid of the Raid in Saint-Denis on November 18, 2015. The others “will have to hide”. She explains that the defendants “did not grow up in misery, nor in opulence”. They have, on the contrary, “almost all improved from a childhood which they describe as happy, or uneventful”. Reason why, “prison is the only acceptable social response to protect society,” she says.


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