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France

'Daesh landlord' Jawad Bendaoud mocked as he goes on trial in Paris

© Benoit Peyrucq, AFP | A courtroom sketch of Jawad Bendaoud at the Palais de Justice court in Paris, on January 24, 2018.

Text by Claire MUFSON

Latest update : 2018-01-30

The trial of Jawad Bendaoud, landlord to two of the November 13 Paris attackers, became something of a spectacle in the French press this week with the defendant being mocked for his unintentionally comic testimony.

Bendaoud, a 31-year-old drug dealer and landlord, rented his apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis to Abdelhamid Abaaoud -- the senior Islamic State (IS) group militant suspected of coordinating the attacks that killed 130 people -- and his accomplice Chakib Akrouh. The French press dubbed him the "landlord of Daesh", referring to the IS group by another acronym.

Bendaoud maintains that he did not know who the men were. The three-week trial, which began on January 24, will determine whether Bendaoud was an accomplice. If convicted, he faces six years in prison.

‘Surreal’ testimony

Since the start of the trial, the hashtags #Jawad and #JawadBendaoud have been trending on French Twitter as Bendaoud became the subject of amused scrutiny. The 20minutes website called the trial the “Jawad Comedy Club”, while France Info television ran a story on “the nine most surreal moments in his interrogation”.

Indeed, Bendaoud appeared nervous and jittery. After claiming the right to remain silent several times, he spoke rapidly and at great length in a way that confused more than one observer.

A journalist for French TV station LCI, Aurélie Sarrot, tweeted: “It’s very difficult to understand and transcribe what Jawad is saying, he’s speaking so quickly. In just a few minutes, he has mentioned a girl married to the brother of footballer Lassana Diarra, Snoop Dog, and Bin Laden. Even he can’t keep up, asking ‘Excuse me, ma’am, where was I?’”

Jawad’s responses were jumbled and at times crass. Asked if he was familiar with the Stade de France, the stadium where one of the attacks took place, he responded: “Yes, on my Facebook there’s a video of me when France scored against Australia and I yelled ‘F**k the kangaroos.'"

When asked whether he was violent, he replied: “I’m calm as a bomb but touch me and I explode.”

He also sometimes resorted to strong language, calling one of the victim's lawyers an “old man”, a “s***ty lawyer”, and a "moped thief”.

At other times, he seemed to display a strange mix of naivety and irritation in front of the judge. “What will I do when I get out of prison? I had plans to open up a cocaine shop. Who’s going to want to work with me now?”

According to his lawyer, he was not medicated, but is suffering from the effects of 14 months of solitary confinement.

Already the subject of mockery

On November 18, 2015, five days after the attacks, anti-terror police raided Bendaoud’s apartment. Arriving on the premises, a wide-eyed Bendaoud approached BFM TV journalists as armed officers were surrounding the building. He claimed to have no idea what was happening. “I found out that these people are holed up in my place. I didn’t know that they were terrorists,” he said, moments before he was arrested. “I was asked to put up two people for three days, and I obliged… I didn’t know them at all.”

'A figure of ridicule': How Jawad Bendaoud became an internet sensation

His bizarre television appearance went viral, turning him into the laughing stock of the nation overnight. Newspapers described him as "the buffoon of a bruised republic" and "a release valve for a country in mourning". Memes and spoof social media accounts proliferated online. His own lawyer called him "the one we laughed about, having cried so much".

Credible criminal?

Despite being roundly mocked for his 2015 interview, Jawad is sticking to his story, claiming his TV was broken, and that he spent much of the five days of the man-hunt high, grappling with how to tell his partner that he had impregnated another woman.

“Seriously, do you think if I had known that there were terrorists in the house, I would’ve gone home, chill like I did that day with a little sandwich and little Netflix film?” he said, adding that he fell asleep watching a movie and woke up to “50 calls and 40 SMS. The first one was ‘terrorists at your place’”.

The judge now has the delicate task of determining whether this man is, in the words of one of the victims of the attack, “an idiot or a terrorist”. In the meantime, he has brought some levity to the grim proceedings.

Date created : 2018-01-28

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