Eight guilty for roles in 2016 Nice terror attack

Mohamed Ghraieb, the main defendant, was handed an 18-year prison sentence

Rescue workers at the site of the attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. AFP
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Eight defendants have been found guilty over their roles in the 2016 lorry rampage in the French city of Nice, in which 86 people were killed.

Attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot dead by police on the spot after causing devastation and chaos on a 2km stretch of Nice's seaside boulevard, where families had been celebrating Bastille Day.

Mohamed Ghraieb, the main defendant and a friend of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, was found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation. He was given an 18-year prison sentence by the court in Paris.

The verdicts followed three and a half months of testimony, including from survivors of the 2016 attack.

Judges found two other high-profile defendants — Chokri Chafroud and Ramzi Arefa — guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation. They were handed jail sentences of 18 and 12 years respectively.

Ghraieb and Chafroud must have known about the attacker's turn to extremism and his potential to carry out a terror attack, based on records of phone calls and text messages among them in the days before the massacre, the court ruled.

Five others, one of them a woman, were handed sentences of two to eight years.

Artist's sketch of the Paris court. AFP

None of the defendants were accused of taking part in the attack.

One survivor, Laurence Bray, said the verdict was a relief.

“I am satisfied to see that the two main defendants have been sentenced to 18 years in prison, even if it is nothing compared to what we have experienced,” he said. “This verdict is a relief. Now there will be a big void.”

On July 14, 2016, thousands of people had packed Nice’s famed boardwalk to celebrate France’s national holiday.

Lahouaiej-Bouhlel rammed his lorry at full speed into families, tourists and others on the picturesque Promenade des Anglais, killing 86 and injuring 450.

The trial took place at the Palais de Justice in Paris, in the same purpose-built courtroom that hosted the hearings for the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.

Some survivors were able to travel to Paris for the proceedings, but many watched on a secured online site, or at a special viewing centre set up near the Nice beachfront.

Among the victims, 33 were foreign citizens and 15 were children.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks but the group has not offered evidence that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who had a record of domestic violence and petty crime, had any direct contact with the group.

The verdict can be appealed.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 6:40 PM