“My right to silence”. At the trial on November 13, Salah Abdeslam said minimum.

It was undoubtedly the most anticipated hearing day in the trial against the attacks on November 13, since Salah Abdeslam was to be questioned on this night of terror … but hope was shattered on Wednesday by the silence of the main defendant, who only agreed to say a few words at the end of the hearing.

This sketch in the courtroom shows the main defendant Salah Abdeslam, left, and the president of the court Jean-Louis Peries in the special courtroom that was built for the trial against the attacks in 2015, on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 in Paris.

KEYSTONE

“Mr President, gentlemen and ladies. Today I will make use of my right to remain silent,” the 32-year-old Frenchman announced at the very beginning of the trial, causing horrific and disappointed sighs in the packed courtroom.

“It’s your right, but it was not planned at all,” responds the president of the Paris Special Court, Jean-Louis Périès, struggling to hide his disappointment.

Salah Abdeslam, who had already been questioned twice about the reality of the case, had in February indicated that he had “withdrawn” and given up killing in the evening of 13 November 2015. He then promised explanations for “later”.

“I made an effort,” says the accused, dressed entirely in black, “I said things” after remaining silent in almost all of the five years of investigation.

The president pressures him, “lets himself be insisted,” evokes the “conclusions” that could be drawn from his silence. He takes up the elements of the case: the final preparations, the journey of the jihadist commandos to Paris, the waiver of detonating his belt, which he mentioned in February.

In vain. Passive, brown hair combed back, brown beard under his black mask, Salah Abdeslam continues to stare straight ahead.

“cowardice”

Annoyed, one of the Advocates General Nicolas Le Bris condemns an accused who “takes himself like a star, teases and silences and enjoys watching the reactions he evokes”.

“We have confirmed with you, Mr Abdeslam, that cowardice is really a trademark of terrorists. There is not a gram of courage on your part,” the Advocate General said.

Salah Abdeslam is the fourth defendant to exercise his right to silence since the trial entered the interrogation phase.

On Tuesday, Mohamed Abrini explained that he had given up participating in the attacks and confirmed that his childhood friend Salah Abdeslam had replaced him at short notice. According to Abrini, Salah Abdeslam was originally supposed to join Syria and only joined the commandos because of his defection.

Was that the case? Did he then give up blowing himself up, or was he forced to do so by a technical fault in his belt?

An expert reminded the stand that Salah Abdeslam’s explosive vest was defective. But this does not make it possible to know if its carrier was trying to trigger it.

“I was ashamed”

It will be necessary to await the intervention of a lawyer for the civil parties, so that Salah Abdeslam finally briefly comes out of his silence.

“We have a small problem, yet you promised me an answer last time. So I’m waiting for my answer,” Me Claire Josserand-Schmidt explains in a soft voice, staring the accused directly in the eye.

Salah Abdeslam agrees to “answer a few questions because I promised you”.

He claims to have given up blowing himself up “not out of cowardice, not out of fear, but because I did not want to, that’s all.”

Why then did he tell his relatives, “his brothers,” that his belt had not worked? “Is that a lie?” asks the lawyer.

“Yes, that was what I was ashamed of not having gone all the way. I was afraid of the eyes of others. I was also 25 … I was simply ashamed, ”he says.

At the end of the hearing, Salah Abdeslam speaks again … to “provide information” about the abandonment of his belt. “I removed the push button, the battery and a cord” to avoid “an accident”, he justifies himself.

“It’s perversity. One shot you answer, one shot you do not. You are the master of the game,” indignant Me Didier Seban, civil defense lawyer.

The only surviving member of the jihadist commandos rolls back into silence.

TTY

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