Tears and repentance from Abdeslam; testimony from a man in a Turkish jail

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This week's hearings were the last chance for the 14 men accused in connection with the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks to give their version of events. Some spoke, some chose the silence to which they are unconditionally entitled under French law. Principal suspect Salah Abdeslam surprised everyone by choosing to speak.

We've come a long way since 8 September 2021.

When this trial opened eight months ago, Salah Abdeslam let it be known that he was a soldier of Allah, a radical tough guy unprepared to recognise any justice other than that administered by Almighty God.

Abdeslam, now 32 years old, and the only one of the ten terrorist attackers still alive, strode into the special criminal court full of fight. On Friday, he sat down in tears.

There are those who believe Abdeslam to be a liar, an arch-manipulator, the clever creator of his own image, a hopeless man playing for leniency. He may, indeed, be all of those things.

If he is pretending, on Friday he was doing it very well.

He answered repetitive, frequently impossible, questions. He was calm, cooperative, polite.

He reiterated the Islamic State propaganda line - innocent French civilians had to die to avenge the deaths of innocent victims of international coalition air strikes in Syria and Iraq. An eye for an eye . . . But the old vehemence was missing.

The suffering of his mother

He started to weep at the mention of his mother, and the suffering he has caused her.

"She tells me that I remind her of both her sons, that I make up for the loss of the first." Brahim Abdeslam, Salah's older brother, was one of the terrace killers. He died in the suicide explosion at the Comptoir Voltaire café.

Then Salah Abdeslam said, "the story of 13 November is written in the blood of those who died. It is their story, and I was part of it. The victims are linked to me and I am linked to them.

"I want to present my sympathies to all the families, and I ask them to forgive me.

"I know that there are those who hate me even today. I know we have our differences, that we will never agree. The Prophet says 'Love your friend with moderation, in case he becomes your enemy; hate your enemy with moderation in case he becomes your friend.' I ask you to hate me a little less. I ask you to forgive me."

He also asked for pardon from three of his co-accused . . . Hamza Attou, Mohammed Amri and Ali Oulkadi, all on trial for helping him after the Paris attacks. "I never intended to get you so mixed up in this. I'm sorry."

He gave his final thought to the families and friends of the dead, the injured.

"I know that your sadness can not be cured, but if my testimony has helped even one of the victims, then that's a victory for me. I have nothing more to say."

Testimony from a Turkish prisoner

The hearing continued after a 30-minute suspension. The atmosphere could not have been more dramatically different.

Neither Mohamed Bakkali, suspected of having helped to organise the Paris killings, nor Osama Krayem, believed to have planned a terrorist attack at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, wish to give evidence. Their silence is an absolute right.

Ahmed Dahmani, another of the accused, has no choice, because he's serving 10 years in a Turkish jail for using a false identity card while trying to return to Syria. He left western Europe for Turkey on 14 November 2015, the day after the Paris attacks. The authorities in Ankara refused to allow his transfer to France for this trial.

The court had to be satisfied with the reading of an account of Dahmani's questioning by Turkish investigators, shortly after his arrest.

The trial continues.

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