Paris trial: Salah Abdeslam guilty as historic trial ends

By George Bowden & Leo Sands
BBC News

  • Published
Salah Abdeslam (R) standing next to the 13 other defendants in front of Paris' criminal court during the trial of the November 2015 attacks on 27 JuneImage source, BENOIT PEYRUCQ/AFP
Image caption,
A court sketch shows Salah Abdeslam standing (far R) alongside the other 13 defendants in court this week

The only surviving attacker from the group that carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks has been found guilty of terrorism and murder charges.

Salah Abdeslam received a rare full-life sentence for his role in the gun and bomb attacks that killed 130 people.

The court also convicted 19 other men involved, six of whom are believed to be dead.

The trial - the biggest in modern French history - began last September.

For more than nine months, victims, journalists, and the families of the dead lined up outside the specially-built courtroom in Paris to piece together the story of the worst attack in France since World War Two.

The attacks across bars, restaurants, the national football stadium and Bataclan music venue on 13 November 2015 saw hundreds injured alongside those killed.

At the beginning of the trial Abdeslam was defiant, describing himself as a "soldier" of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

But he later apologised to the victims, telling the court in his closing remarks that he was "not a murderer, or a killer", and that to convict him of murder would be "an injustice".

He also claimed during the trial that he decided not to detonate his suicide vest on the night of the attack and disposed of it in a Paris suburb.

However, the court accepted evidence that the suicide vest was defective, and therefore it did not believe that Abdeslam had experienced a last-minute change of heart.

His full-life sentence means there is only a small chance of parole after 30 years. It is the most severe penalty for criminals in France and is rarely handed down by the country's courts.

One of the survivors of the attack, Édith Seurat, told the BBC that the trial had not healed her pain and had left her unsatisfied.

"We still have our injuries and our traumas and our nightmares and our wounds," she said. "We still have to keep on living with that."

Stéphane Sararde, the father of one of those killed in the 2015 attacks, told the BBC that the lengthy trial had helped him to process the tragedy.

"It was nine terrible months," he said. "We had to wait, we had to go back into this tragedy in order to go into the details of what happened."

But he hoped the experience would make it easier to be able to live without his son Hugo, he added.

Also speaking to the BBC, survivor Arthur Dénouveaux said he was unsure what to think now that the verdict had been delivered.

"I feel a mix of being happy that it's done, having a lot of questions on what the future holds, and proud to have been part of this wonderful trial," he said. "The verdict shows it was worth the time."

Media caption,

'We still have our nightmares" - Survivors and family members of victims react to Paris attack verdict

Further convictions

The court handed down prison terms to 19 others convicted for their roles, ranging from two years to Abdeslam's full-life sentence. They include:

  • Mohamed Abrini, 37, who admitted to driving some of the Paris attackers to the capital, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 22 years spent behind bars.
  • Mohamed Bakkali, a Belgian-Moroccan coordinator, was sentenced to 30 years in jail for playing a "key role in the logistics of the attacks". He was accused of renting hideouts in Brussels to house the attackers.
  • Swedish citizen Osama Krayem and Tunisian Sofien Ayari were also both sentenced to 30 years in jail for planning a separate attack on Amsterdam airport as part of the same cell.
  • Muhammad Usman and Adel Haddadi were sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with two-thirds of that spent behind bars.
  • Six other defendants believed to have died in the attacks were tried in their absence.

In a separate development, a Belgian court is due to hand down verdicts shortly in the trial of 14 people accused of providing material aid to the Paris attackers.

Among the suspects - 13 men and a woman - is Abdeslam's cousin Abid Aberkane, accused of hiding the attacker in his mother's home before his eventual arrest in 2016.

The prosecution has requested jail sentences ranging from three to four years. Abdeslam's cousin apologised to the court last month, arguing that he had been brainwashed by watching IS videos: "I didn't kill anyone. As for the blame I'm getting, I'm sorry, I acted like an idiot."

Where Paris attacks took place