Paris attacks trial

Bataclan survivor came to court ‘to laugh at’ accused Paris attackers

French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 13, 2015.
French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 13, 2015. REUTERS - Christian Hartmann

At the special criminal court where 20 men are being tried for their alleged involvement in the November 2015 terrorist killings of 130 people, survivors of an attack at the Bataclan concert hall on Thursday described the night of horror that saw 90 people slaughtered – victims of three murderers armed with automatic weapons and explosive vests.

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An irony of history, 13 November 2015, the day on which three suicide squads attacked Paris, was World Kindness Day. 

That fact was pointed out to one survivor by the girl he was having a beer with at the Bataclan bar, minutes before the killers arrived and opened fire 10 metres from where the couple were standing. They both suffered serious head wounds, but they escaped and are alive. 

He needed microscopic brain surgery. She underwent 14 operations to repair her face, ravaged by a bullet which pierced the skull, damaging her nose and one eye socket. It took an emergency operation to relieve the pressure on her brain, bruised by the passage of the high-velocity projectile. 

She is well, and "she hasn't lost her smile," her friend assured the court, smiling himself. 

Less fortunate

A later witness was less fortunate.  

After 40 visits to the operating theatre, she again "looks human" in her own estimation. Her face had been so deformed she resembled a maimed survivor of the First World War. She still suffers, physically and psychologically. 

"I'm a combat victim," she told the tribunal. "But I wasn't in the trenches. I was shot during a concert in central Paris. 

"I'm not angry. But I have a lot of trouble understanding why they did this." 

She would like to be able to bite into an apple again, attack a hamburger.  

"And," this dignified woman reminded the court, "the injuries you can't see are the most difficult to deal with." 

A man who lost his brother in the Bataclan shooting had a message for the family of another victim. 

"A body fell on me as I lay on the floor. I don't know if he is represented here today, but I want his family to know that, as far as I could tell, he didn't suffer at all. I think it's important for them to hear that. 

"I came here today to laugh at the people in the accused box. But I've decided it's not worth the trouble. I don't know how you can go from being a little gangster to that, to act in such an extreme way.  

"I came expecting to see warriors. But that's not what they are." 

Another escapee reminded the survivors they had "the right to be happy, an obligation to be happy" to prove the terrorists had failed. 

Calendar of witness hearings to be revised. 

The president of the special criminal court is going to have to reorganise the schedule for this trial. 

There are now 2,300 civil witnesses, injured victims and their families for the most part. That number is expected to rise to 2,700 by the time of the verdict.  

Over 350 have asked to be allowed speak in court, and the waiting list now has 70 names. There is no time to accommodate them all in the current planning, which envisaged an end to the hearing of victim testimony by early November. 

A revised calendar is to be announced. 

The trial continues. 

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