Paris attacks trial

Confusion and contradiction as terrorist accused says one thing while thinking another

Friday's hearing at the November 2015 terror trial was devoted to testimony from Adel Haddadi, an Islamic State suspect who was arrested in Austria, and who is accused of having planned to take part in the Paris attacks.

Court president Jean-Louis Périès on November 4, 2021.
Court president Jean-Louis Périès on November 4, 2021. © AFP/Benoit Peyrucq

Adel Haddadi is either very stupid or very clever.

This is the man who claims he joined Islamic State by accident; who worked as a cook for the terrorist organisation; who was chosen for the glory of a suicide mission in Europe at the last minute: who left Syria with the two Iraqi bombers who died at the Stade de France in November 2015; who got lost along the way and was arrested in Greece, then in Austria.

Late in Friday's session, one of the lawyers representing bereaved families voiced the question on everybody's lips: "Are you pretending to be naive?" she asked.

"I was trapped," explained the accused. "I wanted to sneak away. I didn't want Islamic State to think I was betraying them."

And then, in his frequently incomprehensible French: "I have a different brain now. It works better."

If he is pretending, Adel Haddadi is very good at it.

A tedious, contradictory affair

Friday's testimony was a laborious business.

Born in Algeria, Arabic-speaking Haddadi made an effort to answer questions in French. Until the court president, Jean-Louis Périès, told him he would do better to speak his own language and make use of the court interpreter. Things improved, but not much.

When Périès asked the accused, for example, to explain a photograph in which Haddadi is seen with another IS fighter, brandishing a Kalashnikov, the answer was less than helpful.

"We were in Syria. It was very hot. We went for a swim."

"You went swimming with a Kalashnikov?" ironised the tribunal president.

Adel Haddadi told the court that he had been advised to join Islamic State by a certain Abou Ali, a member of the Free Syrian Army. This, at a stage in early 2015 when the forces of IS and the FSA were locked in open and merciless opposition.

Confusion and contradiction

Haddadi frequently explained his actions by saying "I did that, but in my head, I thought the opposite."

Thus, the humanitarian cook accepted weapons training. "Because they told me I had to."

He agreed to take part in a suicide mission. "But I really wanted to escape."

"And why do you think they chose you for a mission which was of such crucial importance for IS?" asked the court president.

"Well, I heard them say that I wasn't known to the authorities. And they knew I had trouble refusing. I had a reputation for being helpful."

"There's a difference, all the same, between being helpful and committing a suicide attack!"

IS also gave Haddadi a phone linked to mission commander Oussama Atar, 4,000 euros to finance the trip, and a cash top-up on his release from jail in Greece.

The court will have to decide between the inoffensive, bespectacled adult who never stopped being the kid who got sand kicked in his face, and the man who tried and failed to bring terror to Europe.

The two Iraqis who left Syria at the same time were clever enough to complete their mission. They are both dead. Adel Haddadi is still alive. How stupid is that?

The trial continues.

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