Defence asks for acquittal of Belgian Yassine Atar in Paris attacks trial

Defence asks for acquittal of Belgian Yassine Atar in Paris attacks trial
Palace of Justice in Paris. Credit: Wikipedia

The trial of the 13 November attacks in Paris, France's worst-ever terror attack, saw the defence on Monday plead for the acquittal of Belgian Yassine Atar.

The defence arguments come after nine months of testimony in a longstanding trial, held in a secure complex inside Paris' original 13th century Justice Palace, with 12 extending rooms to provide room for victims, lawyers and journalists.

For the next few days, defence lawyers will detail their version of how the events unfolded on 13 November 2015 in shootings that killed 130 people in the Bataclan concert hall and other places in an onslaught which traumatised the country.

On trial are 19 people accused of different levels of assistance to the killers who opened fire at the Bataclan and its surroundings. One of the defendants is Belgian Yassine Atar, the younger brother of Oussama Atar who allegedly organised the attacks and recruited the terrorists. He is also the nephew of the leader of the March 2016 attacks in Brussels.

Family ties

From the very start of the trial, Yassine Atar maintained his innocence and that only his family connections link him to the case.

"Don't look at the brother, don't look at the nephew," pleaded defence lawyer Christian Saint-Palais. Rather, consider the man who said "I have nothing to do with these crimes", which he has "always condemned".

According to the National Anti-Terror Office in Paris, Yassine Atar was present on "key days" when the terrorist group prepared for the attacks in Paris.

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But his defence lawyers insist that the "absence of Yassine Atar at key moments" is what matters. According to defence counsel Raphael Kempf, "they don't know what Yassine Atar has done and you are asked to imagine it. When one knows nothing, one imagines the worst. Such a line of reasoning is not in accordance with the law."

The defence argues that the Belgian is "innocent" and that the court should "acquit him."

Closing arguments from the defence will continue this week and a verdict is expected on 29 June.

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