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Based on limited information at this stage, this article analyses the chopper attack by a young Pakistani immigrant of the former premises of the Parisian satirical journal Charlie Hebdo on the backdrop of the trial of those involved in the January 2015 terrorist attacks against the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket.
Trial over January 2015 attacks opens in Paris.
On September 2, 2020, more than five years after the attacks, the trial of the massacres of January 7, 8 and 9, 2015 at Charlie Hebdo, Montrouge and at the Hyper Cacher in Paris began before the Special Court in Paris.
The special court (la cour d'assises spéciale) is competent to rule on crimes committed in connection with terrorism and organized drug trafficking, but unlike a traditional Court, it does not have citizen jurors sitting but only magistrates.
Let's recall the facts:
On January 7, 2015, the Chérif and Saïd Kouachi brothers entered at 10, rue Nicolas-Appert, where the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris were located. They murdered eleven people before coming out, killing a policeman and then fleeing. The attack was a revenge/punishment for the publication by the magazine of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in 2012.
On January 8, in Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), Amedy Coulibaly shot a municipal policewoman, who died of her injuries in hospital. On January 9, he took about 20 people hostages at the Hyper Cacher supermarket on the avenue de la Porte de Vincennes and executed four men.
As the three perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo, Montrouge and Hyper Cacher attacks have been shot, only their alleged accomplices will be tried in the special court. There are 14 of them, all believed to have played to varying degrees a role in the organization of these attacks.
Among them, three will be absent from the hearings: Hayat Boumeddiene, Mohamed Belhoucine and his brother Mehdi Belhoucine. The first, partner of Amedy Coulibaly, is suspected of having partly financed the January 2015 attacks through multiple scams. Targeted by an arrest warrant and wanted for more than five years, she fled to Syria, five days before the attacks of January 7, in the company of Mehdi Belhoucine - then probably Mohamed Belhoucine, who left the same day join the Islamic State organization. (France24, 1.9.2020)
Among those expected to be physically present on the trial, Ali Riza Polat's name stands out for his alleged active participation in the attacks. According to the investigation, he was the “right hand” of Amedy Coulibaly but also “a link” between the latter and the Kouachi brothers, which earned him to be tried, like Mohamed Belhoucine, for “complicity” in terrorist assassinations.
The ten other people tried are suspected of having provided logistical assistance to the terrorists: Nezar Mickaël Pastor Alwatik, Amar Ramdani, Saïd Makhlouf, Mohamed-Amine Fares, Michel Catino, Abdelaziz Abbad, Miguel Martinez and Metin Karasular are accused to varying degrees for allowing the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly to obtain weapons. Willy Prévost, meanwhile, admitted to having rendered “services” to Amedy Coulibaly, notably having played the role of intermediary for the purchase of the vehicle used by the terrorist to get to the Hyper Cacher. Finally, Christophe Raumel would have accompanied Willy Prévost during various trips to prepare the attacks without visibly knowing the nature of the "terrorist project.
The 14 people on trial are on charges of terrorist association of a criminal nature and face up to 30 years in prison.
As with every trial of a deadly terrorist attack, the same troublesome question comes up: Were there any loopholes? Between 2013 and 2014, the intelligence services actively followed Chérif Kouachi before lifting this surveillance, a year before the attack of January 7, “for lack of evidence to justify it.” At the time, the Directorate-General for Internal Security (Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure - DGSI) actively followed a hundred individuals “with violent potential”. Today, this figure has increased tenfold and his team is now in charge of “following around 8,000 people”, not all presenting the same level of threat (20 Minutes, 25.9.2020).
This article is part of the RED-Alert project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programme under grant agreement No 740688.