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Paris terror trial: Main suspect gives first testimony

February 9, 2022

The suspect is alleged to have rented a car that was seen outside the Bataclan concert hall during the 2015 terror attacks that killed 130 people in total. In court, the suspect said he "didn't kill anyone."

The suspect's lawyer Olivia Ronen, center, arrives at the courtroom in September in Paris
The proceedings against the 20 suspects for the various coordinated attacks began in SeptemberImage: Thibault Camus/AP/picture alliance

The suspected lone survivor of the terrorist group that carried out a series of attacks in Paris over six years ago is set to give his first testimony on Wednesday.

The suspect, Salah A., allegedly took part in an attack on the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, 2015, in which at least 89 people died.

The so-called "Islamic State" (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks that day that also targeted restaurants and bars killing, in total, 130 people and injuring several hundred more.

On the same night, three individuals blew themselves up outside the Stade de France during a football match between France and Germany.

Bataclan terror trial begins in Paris

What did the suspect say at the trial?

"I didn't kill anyone and I didn't injure anyone, not even a scratch," Salah A told the court.

"Since the beginning of this affair, they haven't stopped slandering me," he added.

He criticized the sentences handed down for terrorism where the perpetrator does not injure anyone, calling them "extremely severe." He argued that it sends a "message" to potential future attackers who have a last-minute change of heart that they will still be "locked up or killed."

At the beginning of the trial back in September, Salah admitted to having been a "soldier" for IS.

What role did the suspect play in the attack?

The court proceedings have been running for several months with survivors and investigators giving testimony.

The case against Salah A. has been built up over five years by French and Belgian authorities.

He is believed to have rented the black VW Polo car that was seen at the scene of the Bataclan terror attack.

The suspect was the only alleged attacker who did not set off his explosive belt, instead throwing it away before fleeing to Belgium. It is not clear whether he changed his mind or whether there was a technical fault.

The 32-year-old was arrested in Brussels, his hometown, during a police raid in April 2016, some 100 days after the attack.

Terror Attack Anniversary

What is happening with the trial?

Salah A. has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for shooting at police officers.

A total of 20 suspects are on trial, of which six are being tried in absentia and five are believed to have already died in Syria. Another has been imprisoned in Turkey on other terror charges.

The man believed to have organized the attacks was killed in a shootout with police in the neighborhood of Saint-Denis.

DW Correspondent Lisa Louis was at the courthouse on Wednesday. She said that the suspect "will be questioned by judges, by lawyers, about his radicalization. They want to understand how he got to that point, when was the tipping point when he decided to participate in these atrocious attacks."

Louis has been attending the hearings for the past five months, she said the most intense moments have been testimony by survivors and family members of the victims. "People were telling us about how they got injured, how they got out of the Bataclan music hall, how they were taken hostage, how they lost their loved ones," she said

Salah is set to appear in court for two days.

The whole trial is expected to last until May, with all defendants facing sentences of 20 years or more if convicted.

Editor's note: DW follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases. 

ab/rt (EFE, dpa, AFP, Reuters)