Victims' families demand justice 40 years after attack on Paris Jewish restaurant

·3 min read
AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON

As Paris marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous Rue des Rosiers terrorist attack in which six people lost their lives, the only suspect charged with the killings still claims he is not guilty.

Was he a "militant Palestinian" or an "executor" of the Abu Nidal group?

Forty years after the attack in the Marais Jewish quarter of Paris, the only suspect in the hands of the French justice system still proclaims his innocence.

Lawyers for Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed have denounced the police investigation into the attack, saying they were searching for "a guilty party at any price".

Extradited from Norway in December 2020, 63-year-old Abu Zayed – a naturalised Norwegian Palestinian – has since been indicted for murder and attempted murder and imprisoned in France.

French anti-terrorist judges suspect him of being one of the gunmen who carried out the attack on 9 August 1982 .

A total of six people were killed and 22 injured following a grenade explosion in the Jo Goldenberg restaurant and a subsequent shoot-out in the Marais.

The attack was attributed to Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council (Fatah-RC) – a splinter group of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

'Limbo of history'

Abu Zayed disputes even his presence in France at the time of the events.

According to lawyers Bruno Gendrin and Romain Ruiz: "The commemoration of this attack should not make us forget that there is a man in custody who claims his innocence.

"The response to terrorism is to oppose the rule of law, not the state that takes revenge, nor the state that seeks a guilty party at all costs," the added.

The lawyers argue that the prosecution of Abu Zayed is nothing short of "pure judicial fantasy".

The search for the truth, they say "has been lost in the limbo of history."

The eldest of eight children, Abu Zayed was born in Palestine in 1958, near Jenin, to peasant parents.

He reportedly worked in construction, joined Fatah in 1981, and left for a militant training camp in Syria.

From 1982 to 1983, he maintains he was living in Lebanon.

Regarding Fatah-RC, he insists that he has nothing to do with the organisation.

In 1985 he married, had two children and in 1991, he emigrated with false documents to Norway, which he never left.

Three 'concordant' testimonies

According to lawyer Ruiz, Abu Zayed learned to handle weapons like "all militant Palestinians" but never went to France.

However, since the beginning of 2010, French investigating judges have suspected him of having belonged to the commando unit that carried out the attack.

They point to omissions, inaccuracies and contradictions about his background during interrogations in the early 1980s.

The judges have also relied on intelligence notes and three witnesses, claiming to be former members of Abu Nidal, heard by investigators between 2011 and 2015.

The judges believe they have identified three other suspects, two located in Jordan – including the alleged mastermind of the attack – and a third in the West Bank, but Jordan has repeatedly refused their extradition.

On the eve of Tuesday's commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the attack – in the presence of the Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont-Moretti – the lawyers representing the civil parties seeking justice called on French and international authorities to take concrete action to ensure that the arrest warrants are acted upon.