Long delay at Paris terror trial as nine accused refuse to take their places in court

Tuesday’s hearing at the Special Criminal Court was delayed for several hours because nine of the eleven prisoners accused of involvement in the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks refused to take their places in the glass security enclosure.They were protesting in support of Muhammad Usman, one of their number, who says he has been refused medical treatment.

Justice and solidarity

Solidarity was the key word at the Paris attacks trial on Tuesday.

While the majority of the accused decided to boycott the hearing in solidarity with Muhammad Usman who is unwell, the closing remarks of the lawyers who represent the survivors and the families of victims had chosen “solidarity” as the central theme of their presentation.

The coincidence gave rise to a long and difficult day.

Accused prisoners are not obliged to appear in court. Once the eight men who decided to remain in the holding cells in support of Muhammad Usman, already absent on Monday for unspecified medical reasons, had been formally advised that the trial was about to resume, proceedings went ahead without them.

There were, thus, only two accused, Mohammed Amri and Farid Kharkhach, in the security box. The three accused who appear in open court, Abdellah Chouaa, Ali Oulkadi and Hamza Attou, were also present.

Edward Huylebrouck, one of the lawyers defending Muhammad Usman, explained that his client has been in pain since last Friday and has been waiting for a medical follow-up examination since mid-May.

No details of the prisoner’s medical condition were revealed.

The court president, Jean-Louis Périès, said he had been in contact with the prison authorities with a view to resolving the situation.

“He will be looked after as soon as possible,” the president told the hearing later in the day. “The doctor has assured me that his health is not at risk. Everything will be back in order tomorrow.”

The hearing resumed after a two-hour delay.

The solidarity of the survivors

Then it was time for the lawyers to voice their version of solidarity.

Tuesday was the final act of the corporate pleading by one hundred or so of the robes representing the interests of the injured and the bereaved.

In the interest of speeding this mammoth trial towards its end, they agreed to nominate representatives to speak for the entire group. And they chose themes around which their choral discourse would be structured. Tuesday’s theme was “solidarity”.

“Solidarity is a human reaction in the face of barbarity,” we were told. “It is a survival mechanism against attack. In the midst of the chaos, it was the solidarity of the victims which saved them.”

There is no doubt that the terrible events of 13 November 2015 inspired numerous acts of courage and generosity.

The court was reminded of some of the most remarkable of those acts. The re-telling was, inevitably, less forceful than the testimony given by the actors themselves last October.

This corporate pleading has at least had the advantage of rapidity. “The chorus was not always in tune,” admitted one of the organising lawyers, “and there were too many echos.”

The legal collective ended their presentation with a solemn address to the tribunal.

“Your verdict will be based on the law and on the truth. Our clients await your decision in complete confidence.”

The trial continues.