In the trial surrounding the Islamist terrorist attacks in November 2015 in Paris, convictions were handed down on 19 defendants on Wednesday. The main suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was sentenced to life in prison for murder and attempted murder. Eighteen of the men were convicted of terrorism-related acts and another of fraud.
The announcement was delayed by several hours. The public prosecutor’s office had demanded between five years and life imprisonment for the 20 accused. Abdeslam, who is believed to be the sole survivor of the terrorist command at the time, is to be imprisoned for life without the possibility of a reduction in his sentence.
The trial had rolled out the series of attacks of November 13, 2015 for nine months. At that time, extremists had killed 130 people and injured 350 others. They massacred the Bataclan concert hall and spread terror in bars and restaurants. Three suicide bombers blew themselves up during an international soccer match between Germany and France at the Stade de France. An assassin was shot dead by the police in the evening. Others died in a police operation a few days later.
The terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks. Abdeslam received the most attention in the trial. The public prosecutor sees the 32-year-old Frenchman as a key figure in the attacks. The defense had requested that Abdeslam not be given a “slow death penalty” in view of possible subsequent reductions in his sentence. He has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium and is currently in prison in France under special conditions.
Six of the other 19 accused were tried in absentia. One suspect is in custody in Turkey, five are said to have died in Syria. Among other things, the accused are said to have obtained papers, driven Abdeslam out of the country or acted as a failed assassin. Some are also accused of only occasionally doing assignments.
The attacks changed French society forever. Many saw them as an attack on the French way of life. In contrast to previous attacks against certain professional groups or denominations, nobody seemed safe after the night of terror. The public prosecutor’s office was also convinced during the trial that the extremists didn’t care who they killed.
In addition to personal cuts in the health, work, family and social life of those affected, the terror series also has an impact on public life: more police officers and soldiers can be seen on the streets. Because terror is no longer just organized from abroad, but is also based on internal forces, experts see the danger of a further split in a society that is drifting apart anyway.