PARIS – The third high-profile terrorism trial in France in two years is scheduled to open on Monday in Paris, with eight defendants facing charges in a 2016 attack in the city of Nice. , Mediterranean. causing more than 80 deaths and hundreds more injured or traumatized.
It came out after months of testing in 2015 Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks. Three serial murders rocked France in the mid-2010s and left unresolved wounds, turning the proceedings into moments as thrilling as the fact-finding.
For more than three months, at a high-security court on an island in the Seine, judges will seek to determine what caused a man to drive a cargo truck more than a mile past spectators. to celebrate Bastille Day on July 14 in Nice. That could prove a difficult task as the driver was killed by police and appeared to have acted alone, leaving only those accused of being indirect accomplices in the dock.
However, although the two previous trials have attempted to clarify the mechanism and motives of the attacks without most of the perpetrators, the lengthy hearings for the victims should at least help they – and to some extent help the wider public in France – to deal with shocking events.
“These trials also contribute to building a kind of shared memory of the mass murders of which we are victims,” said François Molins, chief prosecutor at the Cour de Cassation, the highest judicial court. of France, say Radio France Inter last week. “They must also remind us of what constitutes our dignity and who we are.”
The Nice attack, which took place on the popular Promenade des Anglais seaside promenade and was described by authorities as an act of Islamic terror, was the second deadliest on French soil since World War Two. It killed 86 people, including several children, and injured more than 450.
The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej BouhlelA 31-year-old Tunisian drove a 19-ton rental truck onto the sidewalk of the promenade and, over four long minutes, sped through the crowd as they were leaving the Bastille Day fireworks display.
“I saw chairs thrown in the air, bodies flying around,” said Jean-Claude Hubler, a 57-year-old shopkeeper who was on the beach along the street at the time. “I knew it would be a war scene.”
Mr. Hubler, who today is at the top Good life, a victim support group said, he rushed to help those hit by the truck, trying to identify the most seriously injured among dozens of crushed bodies lying on the sidewalk. “There was a woman that I held hands with until she died,” he recalls.
Like more than 850 others, Mr Hubler will be an “employee” or plaintiff, in the trial, a status reserved for those harmed or traumatized by the attack. The proceedings will be broadcast at a conference center in Nice and accessible on live internet radio to the plaintiffs.
But Mr Hubler said he didn’t expect much from the 15 weeks of proceedings, noting that the defendants were only charged with indirectly helping the attacker and that no one was seen as an Islamic extremist.
Of the eight defendants – seven men and one woman – none have been charged with complicity in the murder. The three are accused of participating in a terrorist plot, a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Among them is Ramzi Kevin Arefa, who faces life in prison for allegedly helping the attacker buy a gun while already being convicted of an unrelated crime.
The rest were charged with less serious crimes such as arms trafficking, with sentences ranging from five to 10 years in prison. A defendant will be tried in absentia.
“They play the second game,” said Simon Clémenceau, a lawyer representing seven of the plaintiffs. “For a certain number of them, if not all, the issue is whether they are considered terrorists.”
Although the Islamic State claims that Mr. Lahouaiej Bouhlel As one of its “soldiers”, there is no evidence that he is actually connected to the terrorist group. Investigators say Lahouaiej Bouhlel, an untrained Muslim with a history of domestic violence, suffered severe psychological distress and rapidly became self-radicalized in the days leading up to the attack by watch jihadist videos.
Célia Viale, a 28-year-old artist whose mother died in the attack and vice president of another victim support group, Promenade of the Angelssays she will probably only get “a relative truth” at trial.
But Ms Viale added that she will attend and testify to “try to speak up” for her mother and “make people understand the suffering behind, the difficulty of recovering from the events.” this.”
She said the experiment was “emotional to many people.”
As proof of this therapeutic directionnearly a third of the proceedings will be devoted to the testimony of the plaintiffs.
“This trial is the culmination of the fundamental changes that have taken place in the political and judicial spheres, as well as in society, since the 2015 attacks,” said Mr.