At the November 13 trial, Mohamed Abrini’s lawyers plead his renunciations

While the defense arguments are coming to an end in the trial of the November 13, 2015 attacks, Mohamed Abrini’s lawyers asked the special assize court on Thursday to sentence him to 30 years in prison.

From our special envoys to the Paris courthouse,

Hug his mother in his arms. Hear the sound of birds flying. Tucking in his kid who has just fallen asleep in front of a cartoon. See the ocean. Open the door to your own home. It’s all over for him. He did not wait 10 months to realize it. He knows it from the start. Mohamed Abrini is guilty. You will condemn him. You will punish him heavily. He knows it, he accepts it. But you will never forget that Mohamed Abrini never stopped doubting for a single second. Thus begins the powerful argument of Me Marie Violleau.

In chiseled writing, a sharp voice, Mohamed Abrini’s lawyer paints the portrait of a man. ” A worthy man “, she says. A man who reads poetry and who during the days of hearing passes to his lawyers poems written on scraps of paper. Like these few verses of Baudelaire that she reads: A dreadful man walks in and looks at himself in the mirror. Why do you look at yourself in the mirror, since you can only see yourself there with displeasure? » « Mohamed Abrini is not a terrible man, at least that’s not how I see him. »

The man she describes is also a scared man, wide-eyed like an animal caught in the headlights of a car. ” Everyone was expected to behave perfectly normal. But after two attacks, after 70 months of isolation, responding with moderation, with intelligence, is impossible. “, continues Me Violleau about his client to whom the prosecution accused of erratic explanations and easy provocations.


Camped facing the court, the lawyer compares herself with her colleague Stanislas Eskenazi to a compass. A compass, she says, that guides those they defend to the truth. By declaring to have been programmed to be part of the commandos of Paris and Saint-Denis and to have renounced it, Mohamed Abrini did in this ” a giant step », had she estimated last March. ” One step forward, two steps back “, retorted the public prosecutor during his indictment, claiming life imprisonment with a security period of 22 years against the one he presented as” the second death convoy survivor “.

A sentence is decided according to several criteria imposed on you by law: the seriousness and complexity of the facts, but also the personality of the author “Reminds Me Violleau to the magistrates. She and her colleague then lead the special assize court on a funnel path in order to shed light on the facts alleged against their client in the light of what he is. Like any compass, they point north. So head for Molenbeek.

Like six other defendants at the November 13 trial, Mohamed Abrini grew up there and had many setbacks. ” School failure, sports failure, checkmate “, he had summarized in November during interrogations of personalities. During the day, he runs a snack bar. At night, he commits burglaries. “ His life is a succession of fatalities. He therefore embarked on a delinquent career. Crime without violence. He didn’t fight, he managed to steal at night “, insists Me Stanislas Eskenazi who has accompanied him since the first hours of his arrest in 2016 and who at the bar calls him by his first name.

The Belgian lawyer knows the Brussels district well, having himself frequented it for a long time. As his client had done eight months earlier, he undertakes to describe him. In Molenbeek, he recalls, “ we live in a binary way: haram/halal. We are more interested in the fate of a friend fallen in prison than in that of the victim he has made. In the cafes, we play dice, we smoke, we watch Arab news channels that show the abuses committed by the American army in Afghanistan and those of the Jewish state against the Palestinians, with great blows of shocking teasers . ” How do you not want to create fertile ground for jihadism? “The outbreak of the Syrian conflict was “ like a gray cloud “, continues the lawyer. ” It reached our neighborhood and our critical spirit. So much for the general framework.

Me Marie Violleau then brings the court into the intimacy of the Abrini home and into the bedroom that her client shared with her little brother Souleymane. ” A bed on one side, a bed on the other, a games console in the middle, she describes. A shared room is the sound of each other’s breath. A rocking sound. The smell of a room, the smell of sheets. The sighs you hear when things are not going well, the games, the giggles. It is the great who protects the small. The light that stays on too long at night. When the light goes out, it’s emptiness. When the brother disappears, we want to go find him. That’s how it works, a man. That’s how a soul breaks. »

Charges swept away one after the other

Because to hear his defense, the tipping point in the life of Mohamed Abrini is the death of this brother in Syria. He is in prison when he finds out. ” He fainted. His fellow prisoner told me it was the worst night Mohamed had ever had. “, says Me Eskenazi. So when he leaves, he flies away in turn. ” To go to his brother’s grave? Maybe. To fight on the spot and ward off the fact of not having been able to prevent him from leaving? Maybe. But certainly not to commit attacks on our soil “, assures the lawyer. ” Mohamed, he realized that he is incapable of fighting, even on the spot. His return to Brussels is his first renunciation. »

Mohamed Abrini does not go directly to Belgium, he goes through England, takes some pictures of a football stadium. The investigators wondered for a time if it was not a question of locations in anticipation of an attack which will never take place. ” It’s an aberration that wastes everyone’s time “, still evacuates Me Violleau. ” He takes pictures because he loves football. Which will also perhaps serve as an alibi for his trip to Syria. »

Mohamed Abrini is also accused of two suspicious trips in September and October 2015, to buy detonators and active oxygen, essential for the manufacture of TATP, the explosive that will be used in the manufacture of explosive belts. The lawyer sweeps them away just as quickly, believing that the prosecution had not been able to provide proof of his presence. ” He rented cars, he took the road with the suicide bombers, he should have been some, why would we nitpick as if we were in immediate appearance in Bobigny? It is out of the question that we add additional loads on his back. »

Abaaoud’s friend

She comes to this meeting with Abdelhamid Abaaoud in September 2015. Abaaoud is the childhood friend. It is above all the coordinator of November 13, 2015, the killer of the Parisian terraces, the man in the orange shoes who we see, hilarious, jumping a metro gate just after the massacre and who will die in a building in Saint-Denis after a Raid assault five days later. Abaaoud is also the jihadist who filmed himself driving a pick-up truck dragging corpses behind him. Abaaoud, “the terrible man” by Baudelaire. The defense knows that it cannot evacuate such a character with the stroke of a pen.

So, at the risk of shocking, Stanislas Eskenazi had a photo projected onto the screens of the courtroom. We see four young men holding each other by the shoulder, all smiles at the edge of a lake. Were it not for their military fatigues, it would look like a vacation photo. Abaaoud is there, to the far left of the photo. Next to him stands a boy on crutches: it is Souleymane, Mohamed Abrini’s brother. ” For us, Abaaoud is one of the greatest criminals. For him, he’s the guy who held his brother’s hand “, tries the lawyer.

We arrive in the heart of the day: the day of November 12 “, continues Marie Violleau. In the preceding days, Mohamed Abrini helps rent the cars that will transport the terrorists to Paris, the apartments that will house them. ” At that time, he is a moral support, a material support. It is indisputable, it is complicity. He will be condemned for this. He knows it “, repeats the lawyer. ” What interests us is what happened in his head “. However, Me Violleau is convinced of this: he no longer wants to go there. ” I think he says it to himself in the morning and he formulates it to Abaaoud in the evening. He leaves. On November 13, he won’t kill anyone. He leaves because he gives up. You are going to sentence him to an extremely heavy sentence. But you won’t forget that he never stopped doubting. »

What is more human »

The defense of Mohamed Abrini is forced to recognize that if he gave up, he did nothing to prevent the attacks from taking place. The Advocates General were not mistaken and believe that only cowardice, the fear of dying, explain his renunciations. ” Cowardice is what is most human, it is what proves that his feet are firmly anchored in the ground and not in the sky “, wants to believe Me Eskenazi.

After having evacuated half of the charges weighing on her client, Marie Violleau concludes with a legal cocktail: “ You have Syria, the meeting with Abaaoud, the rentals in the Paris region and the cars, the round trip on November 12. And that’s all. You’re going to take a bit of his personality, and you’re going to sentence him to 30 years. In the room, a few laughs mock this audacity.

It takes more to destabilize the lawyer who embarks on a plea against life imprisonment. ” perpetuity, she declaims, it’s a word full of fantasies, it hovers above our heads like a bird of prey above humanity. Perpetuity is a word that imposes a low and black sky on justice. Life is to remove the piece of sky between the bars of the cell. It’s lowering the ceilings until they can never stand. It is to reduce them to the status of animals. In a word, it is to take oneself for God. Your power thrills with power. A court decision without hope is to grant life to a man to whom we close our eyes. The only ones we turn a blind eye to are the dead. Even in the middle of the night, in complete darkness, the light of the stars cannot be extinguished. »

Me Eskenazi finally recalls what Abdelhamid Abaaoud had said to Mohamed Abrini to try to convince him to join the commandos: “ If you don’t go, you’ll spend your life in prison. » « Prove him wrong, I implore you. »


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