Paris terror attack trial begins: Twenty accused over massacre that killed 130

Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other in 2015 atrocity

A court-sketch of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks, standing in the courtroom on the first day of the trial. AFP
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The trial of 20 men accused of plotting and perpetrating the 2015 Paris terror attacks, which left 130 people dead and hundreds injured, got under way on Wednesday.

In one of the biggest court cases in the French history, the long-awaited trial commenced at the Palais de Justice courthouse in Paris under tight security.

ISIS gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked six bars and restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and sports stadium on November 13, 2015.

The only surviving member of the armed cell, Salah Abdeslam, 31, is being tried along with 19 other detained, absent and deceased defendants.

Fourteen of those accused were taken one by one into a glass-enclosed box at one side of the courtroom, surrounded by armed officers.

When Abdeslam was asked to identify himself and state his profession he told the court he was “a fighter" for ISIS.

The presiding judge, Jean-Louis Peries, acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances of the events of that night.

“The events that we are about to decide are inscribed in their historic intensity as among the international and national events of this century,” he told the court.

It is alleged Abdeslam drove the first three suicide bombers to the Stade de France stadium where France were playing Germany.

They triggered their explosive belts outside killing a Portuguese man.

A group of gunmen, including Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, then opened fire indiscriminately on people gathered at restaurants in the capital.

The massacre ended with an attack at the Bataclan venue where US band Eagles of Death Metal were performing to a packed house.

All 10 attackers detonated their suicide vests or were killed by police except for Abdeslam, who dropped his own belt, which was found to be defective, and went on the run for four months.

He was arrested in Belgium after a shoot-out with police.

French-Moroccan Abdeslam and a Tunisian accomplice have since been sentenced to jail for 20 years for shooting and wounding four officers during the incident.

Days after their arrests, members of the same cell launched attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people.

France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Wednesday gave a warning that the threat of terrorism remains.

"The terrorist threat in France is high, especially at times like the attacks' trial," he told France Inter radio.

"I called on all the prefects to be vigilant."

More than 1,000 police will be devoted to ensuring the security during the trial, he said.

Updated: September 08, 2021, 2:58 PM