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Biggest Trial in France's Modern History Begins

It involves 20 men accused in ISIS' 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2021 8:53 AM CDT
Biggest Trial in France's Modern History Begins
Police officers guard the Palace of Justice Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

(Newser) – A trial that the BBC reports is regarded as "the biggest in France's modern history" began Wednesday in Paris over the 2015 ISIS attacks that killed 130 people, 90 of them inside the Bataclan concert hall. What you need to know about the trial, which the AP reports is being held in a custom-built secure complex within the 13th-century Palais de Justice:

  • The attacks. Nine gunmen and suicide bombers hit France's national soccer stadium, the Bataclan, and Paris restaurants and cafes, all within minutes of each other, on Nov. 13, 2015. NBC News notes it was the deadliest attack in France since WWII.
  • By the numbers. There are 20 defendants; six of them, including some who may be dead, are being tried in absentia. Only one, Salah Abdeslam, is accused of being among the attackers. The trial is slated to last 9 months and involve 330 lawyers, 1,800 plaintiffs, and 300 witnesses.
  • What to expect. Not much, at first. The trial's initial portion will mainly be "procedural," per the BBC. Victims will begin testifying at the end of September. Then-President Francois Hollande will also testify. He was present at the Stade de France when it was attacked and gave police special forces the green light to storm the Bataclan.

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  • About Abdeslam. Prosecutors allege the 31-year-old spent the months prior to the attack driving around the continent to fetch militants who had arrived as part of groups of refugees coming in from Syria, reports the Wall Street Journal. He allegedly fled the scene after ditching his defective suicide belt and was apprehended in Belgium four months after the attack thanks to a lucky break.
  • About the others. They're accused of participating in ways ranging from providing financing to transporting Abdeslam from France to Belgium.
  • Potential outcomes. ABC News reports the death penalty isn't legal in France. If convicted, the defendants face anywhere from 6 years to life.
  • Historic. The Journal notes that under French law, filming or recording a court case is typically prohibited, but this one will be filmed via eight cameras so that it can be archived due to its historic nature. It won't be broadcast live.
  • In the opening moments. The AP reports Abdeslam was the first asked to identify himself. He asked to give his profession and stated he was "a fighter for Islamic State." He'll be questioned on a number of occasions throughout the trial.
  • Quote from the judge. Jean-Louis Peries said this, "The events that we are about to decide are inscribed in their historic intensity as among the international and national events of this century."
  • Trivia. The Palais de Justice is historic as well, and has hosted trials including that of Marie Antoinette.
(Read more Paris terror attacks stories.)

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