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Judges retire to consider verdicts in Paris attacks trial

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Five judges overseeing the trial of the November 2015 attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and other targets around Paris went to an undisclosed location on Monday 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.

“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,” Abdeslam, 32, said in his closing statement to the court on Monday.

“I went to jail at the age of 26. I’m not perfect, I’ve made mistakes, it’s true. But I’m not a murderer, I’m not a murderer,” he added, wearing a gray sweatshirt and with his hair cut short.

“If you convict me of murder, you are committing an injustice.”

At the trial, which began last September, Abdeslam did not deny impeaching other suicide bombers or being part of the conspiracy to attack Paris on November 13, 2015, which killed 130 people.

But he said 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.

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 presumed 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.

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.

A majority of those on trial 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 a face to the victims. I am aware that what 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.

(AFP)

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