PARIS: A French court on Wednesday found the lone survivor of the Islamist squad that killed 130 people in a night of carnage across Paris in 2015 guilty of terrorism charges, bringing some closure to survivors and a country whose psyche was left scarred.
Salah Abdeslam(pix) was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of early release, a sentence handed out only four times previously in France.
Nineteen other men judged for helping organise the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks that targeted the Bataclan music hall, six bars and restaurants and the Stade de France sports stadium were also all found guilty.
Judge Jean-Louis Peries announced that all of the defendants were found guilty on all counts, with the exception of terrorism charges for one of the less prominent accused.
“This is important for the victims,“ Catherine Szwarc, a lawyer representing some of the victims, said of the guilty verdicts.
Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan attack, called it a fair ruling.
“It will help us,“ said Denouveaux, who heads a victims’ association, while adding: “When things like that (the attacks) happen, you can’t have reparation but you can have justice. It was justice for sure, but it’s not healing everything.”
A defiant Abdeslam had said at the start of the trial that he was a “soldier” of Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
He later apologised to the victims and said during the trial that he had chosen at the last minute not to detonate his explosive vest. But, based on the investigations and hearings, the court ruled otherwise.
“The court considered that the explosive vest malfunctioned,“ Peries said. Abdeslam is “guilty of being a member of a terrorist network,“ he also said.
The ruling can be appealed, and some lawyers of the accused hinted they would do so. The 120-page text of the ruling is set to be made public on Thursday.
It has been a trial like no others, not only for its exceptional length of 10 months, but also for the time it devoted to allowing victims to testify in detail about their ordeal and their struggles in overcoming it, while families of those killed spoke of how hard it was to move on.
Thirteen other defendants, 10 of whom were also in custody, were also in the courtroom alongside Abdeslam at the hearings. During that time, some took responsibility for their role in the attacks and apologised to the victims. Others have not said a word.
The court found them guilty of crimes ranging from helping provide the attackers with weapons or cars to planning to take part in the attack. Six more, tried in absentia and believed to be dead, were also found guilty.
Some of those judged in absentia were also sentenced to life in prison, as was Mohamed Abrini, who was meant to be the 10th member of the commando unit until he backed off a few days before the attacks. Unlike Abdeslam, Abrini will qualify for possible early release after 22 years.
The other defendants were sentenced to shorter jail terms. Several will not go back to prison as the time spent in preventive custody will be deducted from their sentence.-Reuters