Historic Paris attacks trial opens under heavy security

Elite French CRS police officers stand guard outside the Palais de Justice of Paris - Paris' courthouse, on September 8, 2021.
Elite French CRS police officers stand guard outside the Palais de Justice of Paris - Paris' courthouse, on September 8, 2021. AFP - ALAIN JOCARD

The unprecedented trial of 20 men accused of involvement in the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, in which 130 people were murdered, opens Wednesday under tight security.


Taking place in a specially built courtroom inside the venerable Palais de Justice, the nine-month trial will be an emotionally charged event for the thousands of people who were caught up in France's worst ever night of terrorism. 

They were victims of a suicide bombing and gun assault carried out by teams of jihadists at Parisian bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall – and the Stade de France sports stadium.

This long-awaited trial comes after nearly five years of police investigations, with 47,000 interviews giving rise to 542 volumes of evidence. 

There will be 330 lawyers, and as many as 1,800 survivors and relatives of victims.

Journalists from 141 media, 58 news organisations from outside France, have been accredited. Perhaps as many as 3,000 people will be in attendance on the busiest days.

Eleven men in the dock

While there are 20 accused, the trial will open with just 11 men in the prisoners' dock. Three others will sit in the open court, under judicial control but not behind bars.

Six will be judged in their absence. Five are believed to be dead, killed fighting for Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. They must be tried since the court has no definitive proof that they are deceased. 

​​​The sixth, Ahmed Dahmani, is serving a 10-year jail term in Turkey on terrorism and forgery charges. The authorities in Ankara refused to transfer him to Paris for this trial.

Between them, the 20 men are believed to have planned the November massacres, transported and housed the killers, provided arms and explosives.

Among them is Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the so-called "commando" which left a trail of murder across Paris that November night, from the Stade de France sports stadium, to several city centre bars and cafés, and at the Bataclan concert venue. 

Historic coverage

Live TV coverage of the proceedings will be available in a dozen other rooms in the Palais de Justice, for family, the general public, the majority of the journalists.

For the families who can't or don't want to attend, an internet radio service will be available so that those who are centrally concerned can listen to the deliberations. The relatives have been given special codes to enable them to access this webradio.

The entire trial will be filmed for historical purposes.

Judgement is to be handed down at the end of May 2022.

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