Paris attacks suspect refuses to condemn killers, sympathises with victims, families

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Mohamed Abrini
    Belgian terrorist

On Tuesday, the Covid-disrupted Paris terror trial resumed with evidence from Mohamed Abrini, one of the accused, on his religious convictions and his decision to join the ranks of Islamic State in Syria.

Mohamed Abrini is a contradictory individual.

He told the special criminal court in Paris that, if he had the choice, he would prefer to live in Saudi Arabia, "where one can be a proper Muslim," adding that "Islam and western democracy are incompatible".

He defended rape, genocide and decapitation. He said he was proud of his younger brother, Souleymane, who died fighting for Islamic State. He refused to condemn the Paris killers. He said he was sorry for the victims and their families.

In five hours of questioning, Mohamed Abrini, who is suspected of having driven some of the Paris killers to the French capital just before the November 2015 attacks in which 131 people lost their lives, variously showed cooperation, commiseration and exasperation.

Generally polite, he angrily told one lawyer that she "disgusted" him because of her remarks to the "media hyenas" about the prisoners' "impermeability to human feelings".

He refused to answer her remaining questions. She asked them anyway.

Abrini defended Sharia law and jihad. "You think it's weird that a man can have three wives. That a man can take up weapons to defend his religion. But that's Islamic culture. You even have trouble with the halal food we choose to eat.

"In Europe, Islam is a problem."

Slow approach to the central facts

Because of the huge volume of evidence, estimated at more than one million printed pages, the Paris terror trial is approaching the tragic events of November 2015 in concentric stages.

Earlier evidence outlined Mohamed Abrini's family background in Belgium, his career as a petty criminal, his relationships with others of the accused.

The current focus is on the suspect's religious convictions, his rapid shift from non-practicing Muslim to Islamic warrior.

Mohamed Abrini rejected the very idea of "radicalisation".

"There is no such thing as what you call radical Islam," he assured the court. "There is just being a Muslim. That's all."

He rejected the suggestion that Muslim prisoners are systematically recruited and brainwashed by radical elements in prison. "My return to Islam was a complex process. Jail is certainly a good place for internal reflection," he wryly observed.

Brother's death in Syria a major blow

Clearly, the death in combat of his teenage brother had a huge impact on Abrini.

"When I saw the photographs of my brother with a bullet in his head . . . I thought about his commitment, about the other young people who went out to fight for what they believed. Obviously that makes you think about your own life and behaviour.

"I am proud of my brother . . . I am not capable of blowing myself up to kill other people. I know that. I could fight on a battlefield. I understand the Paris killers, but I could never do what they did."

A message for the bereaved?

Asked if he had anything to say to the families of the victims present in court or listening to the webradio retransmission of the trial, Mohamed Abrini hesitated for a long time.

"It's a difficult question. Listen . . . What I can say is this . . . What happened is really sad. They were the victims of French foreign policy and the war in Syria. It's not us in this prisoners' box who created the France in which we live.

"Instead of going on strike for more money, maybe they should protest against foreign policy . . ."

"You want them to demonstrate?"

"I share their sorrow as I share the sorrow of the Palestinians. I have nothing else to say."

The trial continues.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting