ISIS fanatic Salah Abdeslam says it ‘will be an injustice’ if he is convicted over Bataclan attack
The last surviving member of the group of ISIS fanatics that terrorized Paris with a series of attacks in November 2015 pleaded for a pardon on the last day of his trial, saying he is not a “murderer.”
Salah Abdeslam, 32, told the court he had apologized for his actions and to convict him of murder would be an ‘injustice’.
The five judges overseeing the trial of the attacks, which took place in multiple locations around the city, including the Bataclan concert hall, went to an undisclosed location today (June 27) to consider their verdicts.
The purpose-built courthouse in central Paris held its final hearings on Monday after nine months of testimonies and interrogations during which Islamic State’s only surviving attacker, Salah Abdeslam, begged for a pardon.
Salah Abdeslam, 32, told court he had apologized for his actions and to convict him of murder would be an ‘injustice’
The former ISIS member was arrested in Brussels in March 2016 after a manhunt across Europe
The Bataclan and other targets have paid hundreds of tributes to those who lost their lives in the attacks, which killed 130 people.
During the proceedings, he told the court: ‘I have apologized to you. Some people will say they are insincere…as if apologies can be insincere in the face of so much suffering.
“I went to prison at the age of 26. I’m not perfect, I’ve made mistakes, that’s true.
‘But I’m not a murderer, I’m not a murderer. If you condemn me for murder, you are committing an injustice.’
Abdeslam has not denied that he impeached other suicide bombers during the trial or that he was part of the conspiracy to attack Paris on November 13, which killed 130 people.
But he claims he withdrew from his mission to blow himself up in a bar in northern Paris – something prosecutors say is untrue.
Citing his own letters and previous statements, prosecutors say Abdeslam’s suicide belt was defective, meaning he was unable to detonate himself.
The devastating attacks were the greatest peacetime atrocity in modern French history, sending shockwaves across the country.
Abdeslam (right) stands alongside some of the other defendants in the trial. The judges have now retreated to an undisclosed location to deliberate their sentences.
Abdeslam was arrested by police in Brussels, Belgium after fleeing Paris in the wake of the deadly attacks.
He was charged with multiple murders, complicity in murder, membership in a terrorist organization and participation in a murder and kidnapping conspiracy as a member of a terrorist organization.
During the attack on the property where he was arrested, Abdeslam was shot and briefly hospitalized.
Verdicts for him and 19 other suspects on trial are expected Wednesday afternoon by five judges who were taken to an undisclosed location in the Paris region to deliberate their sentences.
Only 14 people have appeared in historic court, the other six are missing or believed to be dead.
Prosecutors have demanded a life sentence without parole for Abdeslam, who is French but grew up in Brussels and has family ties in Morocco.
During her closing statement on Monday, Abdelslam’s lawyer Olivia Ronan told a panel of judges that her client is the only one in the group of assailants who did not use explosives to kill others that night. He cannot be convicted of murder, Ronan said.
“If a life sentence is handed down with no hope of ever experiencing freedom again, I fear we have lost sense of proportion,” Ronan said.
The November 2015 attacks were the greatest peacetime atrocities in modern French history, sending shockwaves across the country and highlighting the threat posed by the Islamic State group from its bases in Iraq and Syria.
The attack on the Bataclan concert hall was one of the deadliest places. Gunmen from the Islamic State group stormed into the venue while American rock band Eagles of Death Metal was halfway through their set.
The band escaped through a side door, but their tour manager was killed, along with 89 others.
The attackers took hostages in the music hall during an hour-long attack that ended after police shot and killed a militant and the two others detonated their suicide vests.
Survivors have said they played dead for hours, or hid in closets, not knowing if their friends or relatives were still alive.
A majority of those on trial for the attacks apologized and appeared to show some measure of remorse on Monday, including one of Abdeslam’s co-defendants and close friends, Mohamed Abrini.
‘I gave the victims a face. I am aware that what has happened is disgusting,” he told the court.
“In a way I could have stopped all that,” added the 37-year-old Belgian, who admitted in court that he was originally chosen for the 10-man squad that attacked Paris.
Abrini, accused of supplying weapons and logistical support, took part in separate suicide bombings that hit Brussels in 2016, though at the last minute he decided not to detonate his vest.
Prosecutors have asked him to serve a life sentence with a minimum sentence of 22 years.