Paris court condemns 19 accused terrorists, Abdeslam jailed for life

·3 min read

After nearly 10 months of hearings and three days of deliberations, the five judges at the special criminal court on Wednesday delivered their verdicts on the 20 Paris attacks accused, finding all but one of them guilty of terrorist offences. The court handed down some of the harshest penalties prescribed under French law.

At the end of this trial, which has exhausted the superlatives, the reasoned judgement set another record ... 126 pages drafted in the three days since the final hearing last Monday.

When, at 8:11pm on Wednesday, court president Jean-Louis Périès announced that verdicts had been reached, suggesting that he might read a short summary version of the vast judgement, there was relieved laughter in the packed courtroom.

"However," Périès stressed with typical rigour, "the entire document will be available for consultation once we finish".

Terrorists or criminals?

The crucial question for each of the accused was whether he had been associated with a criminal operation, or involved in a terrorist enterprise. The penalties for terrorist crime are far harsher than those for mere criminality.

Périès got that out of the way immediately.

"On the qualification of the crimes committed, the court finds that all of the accused, with the exception of Farid Kharkhach, are guilty of association for the purposes of committing a terrorist act.

The sole surviving member of the killing squads, Salah Abdeslam, did not have long to wait for confirmation of his fate.

Accepting that the court remained uncertain as to Abdeslam's precise target and immediate motivation on the night of 13 November 2015, it was clear that he had had a long-term involvement in the project leading to the attacks, and supported the jihadist ideology behind them.

The technical evidence having proved that the explosive jacket worn by Abdeslam was defective, the court was obliged to doubt the accused man's claim that he had decided not to blow himself up.

"Salah Abdeslam is condemned to criminal imprisonment for life, without the possibility of parole."

The condemned man, who is 33 years old, will thus serve a minimum of 30 years behind bars before he can request a review of his sentence. The law, drafted in the wake of the abolition of the death penalty, is intended to ensure that those guilty of the most serious crimes end their days behind bars.

Abdeslam is likely to die in jail.

Other tough penalties

Mohamed Abrini, who drove to Paris in the so-called "convoy of death" on 12 November 2015, and then fled back to Belgium before the attacks, was found guilty of supporting Islamic State and of aiding and abetting other members of the terrorist group.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the obligation that he serve at least 22 years behind bars.

Mohamed Bakkali, Osama Krayem and Sofien Ayari each got 30 years, with the obligation to serve two-thirds of that time.

Muhammad Usman and Adel Haddadi, the would-be terrorists who lost their way on the migrant route from Syria, were each given 18 years with the obligation to serve 12.

A slap on the wrist for the helping hands

The helping hands, those who gave lifts and other minor aid to Abdeslam on his return from Paris, got relatively minor jail terms, and will all walk free in the light of the periods of detention already served.

Kharkhach, who admitted supplying some of the fake identity cards used by the terrorists, was sentenced to two years, a penalty that is practically never enforced.

He is also likely to be freed immediately.

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