The devastating attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, were nothing personal as they only responded to the French bombing of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, said terrorist Salah Abdeslam at Wednesday’s trial. He is considered the only direct accomplice in the attacks who is still alive. A total of 130 people died in the Paris attacks, and hundreds more were injured.
The trial began last Tuesday, with the BFM TV providing the transcript of what was said in the courtroom.
The trial, which the French Minister of Justice Éric Dupond-Moretti called a judicial marathon, is to last until the end of May 2022.
Twenty people are accused, six of whom are on the run. Most of them face a sentence of life imprisonment. The suicide bombers died in the attacks.
On Wednesday, the judge gave the 14 defendants present the opportunity to express their views on the attacks at the time. Most of the accused said they regretted their role in the attacks, said they did not participate in terrorism purposely, and apologized to the victims and survivors.
By contrast, Salah Abdeslam, who spoke last, disregarded the judge’s request for brevity and embarked on a fiery defense of the attack, which lasted about five minutes. He justified the terrorists’ action with the French activity in Syria.
BFM TV called his speech propaganda. Abdeslam, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Wednesday, objected to the terms “terrorists, jihadists, radicals.” According to him, they are only Muslims, followers of “authentic Islam.”
“We attacked France, targeted its population, civilians, but there was nothing personal. (…) I know my statement may be shocking, but it is not to dig the knife deeper in the wound but to be sincere towards those who are suffering immeasurable grief, “said Salah Abdeslam.
In the next part of his speech, he embarked targeted the former French President François Hollande.
“François Hollande said that we fought against France because of its values, but that is a lie. (…) French planes bombed the Islamic State, men, women, children. François Hollande knew the risks he was taking by attacking the Islamic State in Syria,” Abdeslam said, adding that the former president knew that the French people would die.
The speeches of the attackers, especially of Abdeslam, brought tears to the eyes of many of the present survivors. In interviews with BFM TV, they condemned “the complete absence of respect for the victims.”
When Abdeslam began his testimony last week, he said that he wants to “first of all declare that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet.”
Title image: This sketch shows key defendant Salah Abdeslam, bottom left with black mask and right in black shirt, in the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. The trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group’s coordinated attacks on Paris in 2015 that transformed France opened Wednesday in a custom-built complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at several locations around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, leaving 130 people dead and spreading fear across the nation. (Noelle Herrenschmidt via AP)