Trial over France Charlie Hebdo attacks to begin in April
Paris (AFP) –
Fourteen suspects will go on trial before a special court in Paris in April 2020 charged over attacks around the French capital in January 2015, including the massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, legal sources said on Friday.
The perpetrators were killed by police in the wake of the attacks. But 14 people charged with helping them, three of whom remain on the run, will go on trial from April 20 to July 3, over five years after the atrocities took place, a source close to the case told AFP.
Seventeen people were killed over three days in January 2015 in attacks that shook France and heralded a wave of atrocities by radical Islamists that year.
Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said killed 12 people on January 7, 2015 at the Charlie Hebdo offices, including some of France's best known cartoonists.
Over the following two days, a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, shot dead a young policewoman and killed four people at a Jewish supermarket.
All three gunmen, who had claimed allegiance to jihadist groups, were killed by police.
"One should not give false hopes -- this will be a trial of catharsis which will not provide revelations," said Antoine Comte, the lawyer for the Charlie Hebdo victims.
"The killers are no longer there to take responsibility. People want to know who the masterminds are but four years of investigation did not bring all the answers," he told AFP.
- Key suspects tried in absentia -
The suspects will go on trial before a special criminal court solely composed of judges.
Eleven of the suspects are currently in detention, but three are set to be tried in absentia.
They include Hayat Boumedienne, the partner of Coulibaly, who Turkish authorities said at the time had crossed into Syria as her partner shot the policewoman.
Ankara said she flew to Turkey from Spain a few days before the attacks and then crossed into Syria, insisting no warning had come from French authorities about her.
Also on the run are the two Belhoucine brothers, who also left for the Iraq-Syria region just before the attacks.
Unconfirmed reports have said that all three could now be dead after fierce bombing campaigns in the area to defeat the jihadists.
Spanish legal sources have said that Coulibaly drove the Belhoucine brothers and Hayat Boumedienne to Madrid just ahead of the attacks.
The most serious charges have been laid against the elder of the Belhoucine brothers, Mohamed, and Ali Riza Polat, a close friend of Coulibaly who is being held in France.
They are charged with "complicity" in the crimes committed by the three perpetrators.
Ali Riza Polat, who has been in detention for the last four years, is accused of playing a central role in the planning of the attacks and in particular supplying the ammunition used by the attackers.
- Biggest trial since Merah -
Judicial sources have said investigations in connection with the attacks were continuing, notably in Yemen, which one of the Kouachi brothers visited in 2011.
Investigators are also looking at the extent of collaboration between the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly.
Responsibility for the attack against Charlie Hebdo was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of the main Al-Qaeda organisation.
Another man, French national Peter Cherif, an associate of the Kouachi brothers, was arrested in Djibouti on December 16 and sent to France where he has been charged over a 2011 kidnapping in Yemen.
When it begins in April 2020, the trial of the 14 will be the first such major process against jihadists in France since the 2017 trial over the 2012 attacks by Mohamed Merah.
Merah killed three soldiers in March 2012 before gunning down a rabbi, two of the rabbi's children, aged three and five, and an eight-year-old girl at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
His brother Abdelkader was in April handed a 30-year jail term as an accomplice in the murders.
? 2019 AFP