“Don’t forget that he gave up blowing himself up”, plead the lawyers of Mohamed Abrini

“How to defend a shelter? Answers in pleadings this afternooni”, tweeted Thursday morning Arthur Dénouveaux, president of Life for Paris, an association of victims of the attacks of November 13. A message revealing the deleterious impression left during this trial on many civil parties by Mohamed Abrini – his outbursts, his fluctuating versions, his edifying salient remarks, as when he compared the rapes committed by the Islamic State to a political natalist.

A message also revealing the magnitude of the task awaiting its two defenders, Me Marie Violleau and Me Stanislas Eskenazi, the prosecutors of the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office having requested life imprisonment accompanied by a security sentence of twenty-two years on the against the 37-year-old Belgian-Moroccan, the friend of the Abdeslam brothers, the neighbor of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, involved in the preparations for the attacks in Paris but also “the man in the hat” those of Zaventem in March 2016.

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30 years rather than life

How to defend an Abrini? “Pretty good”, one would be tempted to answer after three hours of pleadings. Each in their own style, the two lawyers played their part, making the most of the meager cards at their disposal, insisting on the personality of the person concerned, his conditions of detention. They made their own requisition, asking for a 30-year sentence for their client, a ” fairer sentence “, according to them.

Mohamed Abrini is guilty. He will be condemned, we know that. His involvement, he recognized it. It is not disputed, but it is circumscribed”, immediately proclaims Marie Violleau.

She unfolds a well-written pleading, with no setbacks but underpinned from beginning to end by the same line of force and punctuated here and there by an irony as cold as it is biting, in particular against certain colleagues from the civil party too fond of microphones or researchers who may or may not have come to testify at the bar: “Ladies and gentlemen of the court, you are a thousand times more competent than these people. »

” A poet “

In the preamble, the young penalist with long brown hair tried to thwart the image left by Mohamed Abrini, “Restaurant by day, burglar by night”. No small feat.

It is uncertainty. It is chiaroscuro. He speaks but too little. He answers but he stops. He’s a poet. He sends us small papers sometimes with poems. Mohamed Abrini is not an ISIS soldier. Never forget that he never ceased to doubt, strikes the lawyer, her two hands constantly pressed on either side of the desk. You will remember that since the first day of his police custody, he has been talking. He lies sometimes but he also tells the truth. »

The lawyer then discusses the charges against her client. A good dozen in total. Her trip to Syria, her return to England, her stay in the hideouts before the attacks, her meeting with Abaaoud, her role in the rental of apartments, cars, her presence during the purchase of detonators… She asks the court to dismiss half of the charges.

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On his brother’s grave

First there is this trip to Syria in June 2015 when he was barely out of prison. Mohamed Abrini will say that he wanted to go and pray at the grave of his younger brother, killed a few months earlier while fighting in the same brigade as Abdelhamid Abaaoud. “This is the tipping point, in the departure and death of the brother in Syria. This departure [celui de Mohamed Abrini, NDLR], it starts with desperation. Mohamed Abrini did not fight, he stayed ten days there, that is not enough”explains the lawyer.

On his way back to Belgium, Mohamed Abrini stopped for several days in England where he traveled between Birmingham and Manchester. On the spot, he collects money from sympathizers of the cause according to the instructions of Abaaoud. He also walks around Old Trafford, Manchester United’s football stadium. In view of scouting for a possible attack?

“For me, the idea of ​​scouting is an aberration. Even before being asked questions, an investigator abandoned the thesis of these locations. »

After England, Mohamed Abrini would have made a new step: in Paris, this time. According to the investigators, he could have met Reda Hame there, a Frenchman sent back from Syria to France by Abdelhamid Abaaoud in order to perpetrate an attack against a concert hall. “We are told that Mohamed Abrini and Reda Hame stop the same day in the same sector, but they will never trigger the same stop. Nothing was done during the investigation to confirm this meeting.advance Me Violleau.

Here, we are at the stage of evidence, not clues. »

The one who gave up

It then comes to November 12. That evening, the day before the attacks, he was present in the Bobigny hideout. During the trial, he revealed that he should have initially been part of the commandos before finally giving up. ” It’s not nothing to give up this moment”says his lawyer.

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What interests us is what happened in his head. He doesn’t want to go there anymore. He formulates it that evening to Abdelhamid Abaaoud. They all look at him and he runs away. You can’t forget that he never stopped doubting. »

The lawyer punctuates his argument with a final inspired tirade on life imprisonment: Life is to remove the piece of sky between the bars and the cell, it is to lower the ceilings of the prisons so that they can never stand “.

Stanislas Eskenazi, his colleague from the Brussels Bar, takes over. He begins by apologizing to the court: Excuse me for calling him Mohammad [qu’il prononce en langue arabe, NDLR]. After six years, for me, it’s Mohamed, it’s not Monsieur Abrini “. The tone of his argument is given, it will be very personal.

This lawyer, a tax specialist, has been defending the Belgian-Moroccan since April 8, 2016, the first day of his police custody. He remembers their meeting. “I stupidly ask him ‘How are you?’ He replies, ‘I’m relieved it’s over., says the Belgian lawyer, brush cut, Brussels accent, a smile still hanging on his lips. He knows Molenbeek well, where several of the members of the terrorist cell are from, having himself lived there, frequented his cafes and surely already met his client.

We play it, we play it all day, he explains, taking a dice out of his robe. We don’t meet there, we bump into each other there. We smoke inside, even if it is forbidden. We smoke weed, even if it’s doubly forbidden. You can sometimes buy a mobile phone that has fallen off the truck. We care more about the friend who has gone to prison than about his victim. »

Belgium, record number of departures for Jihad

And the Belgian lawyer to continue: “There are neighborhoods and atmospheres that predisposed jihadism to take shape. I do not intend to justify the attacks but it is a contextualization. » He cites those TV screens always tuned to Al-Jazeera and its videos “worthy of Daesh propaganda”this binary vision of the world “them” and “us” which reigns there. “Molenbeek is not a Rohingya camp and we have enough to eat there, but we have to try to understand why we Belgians hold the record for the number of departures per inhabitant in Europe. It’s about explaining the choices.”considers the lawyer.

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Like his colleague, he wishes to recall that his client is the one who has given up on committing an attack. Two times. The lawyer says that on the CCTV footage from Zaventem airport, we see him having a lively discussion with the two other terrorists to the point of attracting the attention of the police. “He gets out of the line where he was supposed to blow himself up and it’s Bakraoui who takes his place. » He fled, leaving behind his cart stuffed with explosives.

I have heard my opponents speak of Monsieur Abrini’s cowardice. Cowardice is what is most human. This is what proves that Mr. Abrini has his feet firmly planted in the ground. »

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Finally, Me Eskenazi quotes the words spoken by Abdelhamid Abaaoud after learning that Abrini was renouncing to be part of the November 13 commandos: “If you don’t go, you will end your life in prison. »

“Make him lie, I implore you”, the lawyer asks the court. ” At that time, I would be the one who would be relieved. »

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