A vast security operation swung into operation in Paris today as an intended ISIS suicide bomber who survived the most murderous terrorist attack in the city’s history prepared to appear in court.
Belgian-born French national Salah Abdeslam, 31, is the primary defendant in a case and is the only alleged terrorist who is believed to have taken part in the attacks still alive.
He and 19 other defendants are accused of masterminding co-ordinated attacks on the Bataclan music hall, Stade de France national stadium, and numerous restaurants and bars on November 13, 2015, killing 130 people.
Most of the defendants, 14 of whom will face the court with six being tried in absentia, face the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of complicity in the attacks.
A secure modern complex embedded within a historic 13th-century courthouse will play host to the trial – the country’s largest ever criminal trial – which is expected to last nine months.
Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national, has admitted discarding a belt full of explosives rather than blowing himself up on November 13, 2015
A vast security operation swung into operation in Paris today as the trial of 20 men accused of masterminding the November 2015 attacks opened
This morning Abdelsam was removed from his cell at Fleury-Mérogis prison, in the southern Paris suburbs, where he is under 24-hour video surveillance, and transported to the court house (pictured, a police convoy believed to be carrying the defendant)
This morning he was removed from his cell at Fleury-Mérogis prison, in the southern Paris suburbs, where he is under 24-hour video surveillance.
Abdeslam was then driven in an armed convoy to a specially built Assizes in central Paris, where specialist anti-terrorist judges will adjudicate.
‘The prisoner was removed from prison shortly after 9am so as to be driven into central Paris,’ said a police spokesman.
‘There are hundreds of military and police involved in the security operation, both on the journey, and around the court.’
Special Forces officers brandishing machine guns surrounded the prison before motor-cycle outriders led the convoy including a white prison services van containing prisoner number 444806.
During the 40-minute drive to court, Abdeslam was accompanied by his defence barrister Olivia Ronen, who said ensuring a fair trial was her priority.
‘There’s no compromise possible in defence,’ said Ms Ronen. ‘Whatever the case, we give one hundred per cent. This entails not being afraid of displeasing or shocking people’.
Abdeslam will appears in the dock along with 13 other men who are alleged to have helped with the slaughter, while six others will be tried in absentia.
Five of them are thought to have been killed while fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, while a sixth is in prison in Turkey.
Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national, is already three years into a 20- year-prison sentence for attempted murder.
He has admitted aborting a suicide bomb mission and instead returning to his hometown, Brussels, following the attacks.
This sentence relates to a shoot-out he had with Brussels police before his capture four months after the Paris attacks.
He now faces multiple life sentences if found guilty of assisting in multiple murders during a criminal process due to last at least nine months and dubbed ‘The Trial of the Century’ in France.
France suffered its most ruthless terror attack in 2015 when three groups of jihadists carried out co-ordinated attacks on the Stade de France national stadium, the Bataclan music hall, and numerous restaurants and bars which left 130 dead and over 350 injured
The specially designed courtroom and associated holding rooms are designed to hold 1,800 victims, 330 lawyers and 141 accredited journalists
The trial is expected to unfold over nine months and will take place in a secure modern complex embedded within a historic 13th century Parisian courthouse
The 13th-century Palais de Justice, where Marie Antoinette and Emile Zola faced trial, has been transformed to accommodate hundreds of people for the trial
Beyond preparing to attack the Stade de France, where France were playing Germany in a football friendly, Abdeslam also allegedly rented cars and hideouts for the ISIS cell.
Abdeslam’s childhood friend Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was shot dead by police, was the suspected on-the-ground coordinator of the Paris slaughter.
Earlier defence lawyers all quit because of Abdeslam’s reluctance to communicate with them.
Sven Mary, his former counsel in Belgium, said: ‘He has the intelligence of an empty ashtray. He’s extraordinarily vacuous.’
Mr Mary added: ‘I asked him if he had read the Koran, and he replied that he had researched it on the Internet’.
In Paris, Abdeslam faces numerous charges including ‘participating in murders in an organised gang connected to a terrorist enterprise’.
Victims in Paris included Englishman Nick Alexander, 31, from Weeley, Essex, who died in the Bataclan music venue.
Matthieu Chirez, a lawyer for 21 Bataclan survivors from the UK and Ireland, said the trial, which is scheduled to last for nine months, would be ‘a search for the truth’.
The trial is due to start at midday on Wednesday, and last until May.
Brahim Abdeslam, the brother of defendant Salah Abdeslam, holds a rifle in front of La Belle Equipe restaurant in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015. Brahim detonated his suicide vest after gunning down dozens of French civilians
The attacks in 2015 are the biggest in French history outside of the attacks that took place during WWII