French Court Hears First Trial Linked to 2015 Paris Attacks

PARIS (AP) -
The building of the police raid on an apartment is pictured in Paris suburb Saint-Denis, Nov. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Fie)

The first trial related to the 2015 deadly Islamic State attacks on Paris opened on Wednesday after initial concerns that a national protest by prison guards would block a suspect’s transfer to the Paris court house.

There were fears that Jawad Bendaoud — accused of helping two of the attackers, including the suspected ringleader, hide from police when they were the most wanted men in France — couldn’t attend the trial after guards protesting over prison working conditions blocked the entrance of the Fresnes prison, south of Paris.

But police managed to clear the main access point to the prison, and Bendaoud appeared calm and concentrated as the much-awaited trial got underway.

The Nov. 13, 2015, attacks on Paris cafes, the national stadium and the Bataclan concert hall left 130 people dead in the country’s deadliest terrorist attack. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Bendaoud, an outspoken 31-year-old with a criminal record, provided lodging to the two attackers, but has claimed he didn’t know they were two of the Paris attackers or even wanted terrorists. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

Two other suspects also are on trial: Mohamed Soumah, accused of acting as an intermediary with Bendaoud to find lodging for the two fugitives; and Youssef Ait-Boulahcen, accused of being aware of their whereabouts and not informing authorities.

Both have denied the accusations. Soumah faces up to six years in prison and Ait-Boulahcen up to five years if found guilty.

While the trial doesn’t directly deal with the attacks themselves, it is important for survivors and families of victims who are seeking justice.

“We have been suffering for the past two years and we need to see something happening, we need to see these people being held accountable,” said Aurelie Bonnet, whose husband was killed in the attacks. “I hope that this weird man will not fool people.”