Six months after Paris terror attacks, victims’ families want answers
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More than six months after the November 13 attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris, French judges on Tuesday began meeting with families of the victims and survivors who are still searching for answers about the tragedy.
Investigating judges are scheduled to field questions from around 1,000 people over three days in the French capital as the government tackles the complicated task of distributing financial compensations and revealing victims' autopsies.
On Tuesday, they will meet with the families of those killed near the Stade de France sporting arena and outside Paris restaurants and cafés.
Wednesday and Thursday have been set aside for families of victims who lost their lives at the Bataclan concert hall, as well as survivors of the attack that was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
The grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque prays outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris https://t.co/gCM1NVYDi7— Joseph Bamat (@josephbamat) May 24, 2016
They could prove to be dramatic encounters, with the physical and emotional scars of the attack barely healed.
“A lot of the families we have spoken to feel quite angry and abandoned by the French justice system,” said FRANCE 24’s Claire Williams from outside the military training school where the meetings were being held.
The meetings were being held there, instead of a courtroom, due to the large number of plaintiffs.
“Judges can’t give away too much information because they don’t want to jeopardise ongoing investigations, but families don’t want to leave empty-handed either,” noted Williams.
Autopsies and assurances
Families want more details about the circumstances in which their loved ones died, as well as about how the terrorists planned and carried out the attacks.
“The families are waiting to receive the autopsy results so they will be able to at long last know how their loved ones died. Then they expect to have explanations as to why the Bataclan and other attacks in November could not have been avoided,” Gérard Chemla, a lawyer for victims and their families, told FRANCE 24.
“Reassurances are also extremely important. Some of the people at the meeting are survivors who are still living in trauma. Many of them are nervous when they take public transport or when they are standing in a crowd outside. So they want to know what France is doing to protect them from future attacks,” said Williams.
The French judges also aim to explain the legal procedures that will likely continue for months and potentially years.
“These people have been plunged into the unknown world of the justice system, which has its own terminology, vocabulary and schedule. Today is also about explaining how it all works,” noted Williams.
In a sign of how long and complicated the procedures could be, Salah Abdeslam, the only known surviving suspect of the attacks, refused to answer questions from investigators last week.
He initially said he was ready to cooperate with authorities but during his first hearing on Friday he invoked his right to remain silent.