Court probes the backgrounds of two minor Paris attacks players

·3 min read

Wednesday's session of the Paris terror trial was devoted to Belgian police evidence on the backgrounds of Abdellah Chouaa and Ali Oulkadi, two of the accused who are not in police custody and who sit near, but not inside, the prisoners' enclosure.

Chouaa would be the last person to ask for help if you were planning to go to Syria to fight in the ranks of Islamic State.

On two separate occasions Chouaa went voluntarily to the Belgian police to denounce family members – his father and his brother Abderrahmane – whom he had reason to believe they wanted to join radical armed groups, the father in Afghanistan, the brother in Syria.

Nonetheless, when Mohamed Abrini, another of the accused in this trial, and a suspect in the 2016 Brussels bombings, needed a lift to the airport in June 2015 for a flight to Turkey, en route to the zone under Islamic State control, he asked his friend Abdellah Chouaa to drive him.

Chouaa told investigators he had no idea that his friend's ultimate destination was Syria. Abrini contradicts this, saying Chouaa knew very well but did not approve of the plan.

Cash transfer

Whatever his attitude to the excursion, Chouaa appears not to have hesitated a few days later when Abrini lost his belongings on the way to Gaziantiep and asked for some cash to tide him over. The Belgian police believe that Abdellah Chouaa sent €350 through Western Union.

And when Abrini returned to Paris in July 2015, via London, Birmingham, and Manchester, it was Chouaa who went to pick him up at Charles de Gaulle airport.

The police evidence was not particularly enlightening as far as Chouaa is concerned, being firmly anchored on facts associated with Mohamed Abrini, facts already covered in greater detail by other investigators.

There is no clear evidence that Chouaa was ever radicalised.

After three hours of police evidence and legal questioning, he remained as he was initially described: a "generous and helpful" non-practicing Muslim.

Childhood friends

Ali Oulkadi, the second of the day's accused to have his career described from Belgium, is yet another native of the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek.

Married, the father of two children, Oulkadi has no criminal record and no association with any form of islamist extremism. He was, however, the best friend from childhood of returned IS fighter and terrorist killer Brahim Abdeslam.

He had more distant relationships with several others of the accused, notably Hamza Attou, Mohammed Amri and Mohamed Abrini.

Ali Oulkadi is suspected of having helped Salah Abdeslam evade arrest when Abdeslam returned to Brussels on 14 November 2015.

Trial continues

The trial continues with further Belgian police evidence. On Thursday, the brother of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the supposed commander of the entire Paris operation, will appear in court.

Abaaoud was killed in a police raid in Saint-Denis four days after the attacks.

As a character witness, his brother Yassine Abaaoud is to open the testimony from the families of some of the accused and some of the dead terrorists.

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