Prosecutors request life sentence for main Paris terror accused

Twenty people are on trial in France over 2015 attacks

Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect, standing on the first day of the trial over the November 2015 attacks in which 130 people were killed in France. AFP
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Prosecutors in the Paris attacks trial on Friday demanded a life sentence without parole for the main man accused of perpetrating the November 2015 attack that killed 130 in France's worst-ever terror assault.

Salah Abdeslam, a 32-year-old French citizen, is the only surviving member of the group that opened fire in the packed Bataclan concert hall and on cafe terraces in adjacent streets, and detonated suicide bombs at the Stade de France.

The request that Abdeslam be denied the possibility of parole is extremely rare in France, where prisoners serving life sentences are often released after 20 to 25 years.

Also on trial are 19 others accused of various degrees of assistance to the killers, including providing logistical support, planning the attacks and supplying weapons.

Prosecutors also requested standard life sentences for suspected ISIS members Osama Krayem, a Swedish citizen, and Tunisian Sofien Ayari, as well as one for Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian accused of having provided weapons and logistical support.

Abrini, known as the “man in the hat” from video footage, would go on to take part in suicide bombings in Brussels in 2016, though he decided not to detonate his vest at the last minute. Abdeslam also claimed during the trial that he had a last-minute change of heart, which failed to convince the prosecution.

The length of the trial, its emotional charge and the number of plaintiffs — 2,500 — have made it the most impactful legal proceeding in French history.

The remainder of the trial will be dedicated to closing statements by defence lawyers.

The verdict is due on June 29.

A policeman patrols outside the courthouse in Paris where a trial over the 2015 terror attacks are being held. EPA

“Those who committed these heinous crimes are nothing more than low-life terrorists and criminals,” one prosecutor, Nicolas Le Bris, told the court on Friday.

“The bloodthirsty fury of these criminals was without limit.”

They wanted “a massacre and carnage” when they attacked the Bataclan “and sadly they succeeded”, he said.

“A balmy November evening turned into a nightmare.”

On Wednesday, prosecutor Camille Hennetier told the court that what would be remembered about the trial were the names of the victims being read out in court and the evidence given by survivors, but also “the cruelty of the terrorists who fired again and again and took pleasure in killing”.

Even after years of painstaking investigation, “much remains in the dark” about how the attacks were planned and carried out, she said.

“Most of the accused know. They know everything and have never spoken, and probably will never answer,” she said.

Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium after five months on the run, kept silent during the police investigation but started talking during the trial, explaining how he gave up plans to blow himself up and apologising to victims.

But his tearful appeal for forgiveness had little impact on the prosecutors, who believe that his explosive belt simply malfunctioned.

Prosecutors also said that Abdeslam's claim that he was recruited by an extremist cell only a few days before the attacks was “illogical”.

A verdict of life in prison without parole has been handed down only four times since 1994 and all but rules out a later reduction of the sentence — and only after at least 30 years behind bars.

Prosecutors also requested standard life sentences for Mohamed Bakkali, accused of being the logistics co-ordinator of the attacks, as well as for five suspected ISIS members believed to have been killed in Syria or Iraq.

For the remaining suspects, sentences of five to 16 years were requested.

Updated: June 10, 2022, 6:13 PM