Paris court sentences Abdeslam to life in prison

Paris court sentences Abdeslam to life in prison
Salah Abdeslam. Credit: Belga

After 150 days of hearings, the trial of the perpetrators of the Paris terror attacks in 2015 has culminated in Salah Abdeslam being sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of ever being released on Wednesday.

The Special Court of Assizes in Paris gave Abdeslam, the sole survivor of the terror group Islamic State (IS) commandos who killed 130 people and injured hundreds more in Paris and Saint-Denis on 13 November 2015, the most severe punishment under French law (it had only been pronounced four times before).

Earlier in the evening, the court found Abdeslam guilty of all charges against him — finding him complicit in murder, attempted murder and kidnapping, all as part of an organised gang — and stated it considers him a co-perpetrator of the attacks, Belga News Agency reports.

"He is a co-perpetrator of homicides, attempted homicides, unlawful imprisonment, attempted homicides against persons with public authority, as a member of an organised gang," the court stated.

It added that, although the attacks took place at different locations, including the metro, a café and the Bataclan concert hall, they should be considered one crime scene. "The target was not demarcated but was part of a coordinated plan of attacks."

Abdeslam's defence

Abdeslam dropped off several other terrorists at the Stade de France on the day of the attacks and was meant to detonate a suicide bomb later but instead dumped his bomb belt in a rubbish bin.

Illustration of Salah Abdeslam during the trial. Credit: Belga

The defendant's claim which he repeated throughout the trial — that he had renounced his intention to detonate his bomb belt — did not convince the court. "The bomb belt did not work, which casts doubt on his statements," the court stated, referring to the fact that it turned out to be defective.

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The now 32-year-old Abdeslam evade police for several months after the attacks but was eventually arrested in Molenbeek on 18 March 2016.

Two other members of the gang, Osama Krayem and Sofien Ayari, were both sentenced by the Paris court to 30 years in prison with a two-thirds security period.

Both were due to carry out an attack at Schipol airport on 13 November 2015, but the attack never took place for unknown reasons. They went into hiding in Belgium, where Krayem was meant to blow himself up in the Brussels and Zaventem attacks, but changed his mind.

Ayari, who took part in a shooting in Forest, was arrested four days before the Brussels attacks together with Abdeslam. He has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium.

Belgian trial of March 2016 attacks

The Paris terrorist attack trial included 542 dossiers, 1,800 civil parties and 330 lawyers. It was the longest trial in France's history. Just months after one large-scale case ends, another will begin in Belgium.

In autumn, the Brussels assize court will start its case over the 2016 terror attacks on Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro station Maelbeek, which will be one of the biggest ever held in Belgium. Krayem and Ayari will also be tried in the autumn.

The trial will include partly the same defendants and the same charges, however, here the facts will be judged by a people's jury rather than by professional judges as was the case in Paris.

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