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PARIS: The lawyer for the only surviving attacker of the November 2015 terror massacre in Paris has slammed his client’s murder conviction and sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, saying on Thursday the verdict ‘raises serious questions’ .
Olivia Ronen did not say whether Salah Abdeslam would appeal the verdict and sentence. He has 10 days to do so.
Abdeslam was found guilty on Wednesday of murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, among other charges, for his involvement in Daesh’s attacks on the Bataclan theater, Parisian cafes and France’s national stadium. which killed 130 people.
Ronen maintained throughout the marathon trial of Abdeslam and 19 other men that his client did not detonate his explosive-filled vest and kill no one on the night of the deadliest peacetime bombings in the history of France.
Nevertheless, Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Belgian, was given the harshest possible sentence in France for murder and it “raises serious questions”, Ronen said in an interview with public radio France Inter.
During his trial testimony, Abdeslam told a special counter-terrorism court in Paris that he was a last-minute addition to the nine-member attack team that deployed to the French capital on November 13. 2015 to launch coordinated attacks on multiple sites. .
Abdeslam said he walked into a bar with explosives strapped to his body, but changed his mind and deactivated the detonator. He said he couldn’t kill people “by singing and dancing”.
The court, however, found that Abdeslam’s explosive vest had malfunctioned, rejecting his claim that he had decided not to go through with his part of the attack due to a change of heart.
The other eight assailants, including Abdeslam’s brother, either blew themselves up or were killed by the police. Abdeslam led three of them to the scene of the attacks that night.
The worst carnage took place at the Bataclan. Three gunmen burst into the room, firing indiscriminately. Ninety people died within minutes. Hundreds of people were held hostage – some seriously injured – for hours before then-president Francois Hollande ordered the theater stormed.
Abdeslam was nowhere near the Bataclan at any time that night, defense lawyer Ronen said, suggesting he therefore did not deserve the harshest possible murder sentence in France.
“We condemned a person who we know was not at the Bataclan as if he was there,” Ronen said. “This raises serious questions.”
The chief prosecutor of the special counter-terrorism court, Jean-Francois Ricard, said the trial of the 20 extremists, the court’s verdicts and sentences, including the most severe for Abdeslam, were a “triumph of the rule of law ” in France.
“Abdeslam dropped three human bombs and killed by proxy,” Ricard said Thursday in an interview with another public broadcaster, France Info. “His punishment is just.”
The life sentence without the possibility of parole had so far only been pronounced four times in France, for crimes related to the rape and murder of minors.
The Special Anti-Terrorism Court also convicted 19 other men involved in the attacks. Eighteen received various terrorism-related convictions, and one was convicted of a lesser fraud charge. Some were given life sentences; others walked free after being sentenced to prison.
Abdeslam apologized to the victims in his final court appearance on Monday, saying hearing their stories of “so much suffering” had changed him.
Georges Salines, who lost his daughter Lola at the Bataclan, felt that Abdeslam’s remorse was not sincere. “I don’t think it’s possible to forgive him,” he said.
But for Salines, life without parole is going too far.
“I don’t like the idea of ​​deciding in advance that there is no hope,” he said. “I think it’s important to have hope for any man.”