After the requisitions, last week, place to the pleadings of the defense in the trial of the attacks of November 13. They are fairly young lawyers – many in their fifties – brilliant: several have won the most prestigious eloquence competition, that of the internship conference. There are many young women, in particular, who have devoted nine months of their career to this judicial marathon. Most of the defense lawyers are French, but there are also a few Belgians, since we know that the planning of the attacks took place across Quiévrain.
Among them, master Jonathan de Taye, adviser to Ali El Haddad. He will plead for the first time in France. “It’s a mixture of impatience and apprehension, he acknowledges, because it’s not just any argument before any Court for any case. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders, to defend an innocent person in a case like this. He is in the box because of a totally hazy theory from the Belgian investigators, according to which he should have provided weapons. This theory was challenged at trial, and I will only be satisfied with an acquittal because he is innocent.”
Jonathan de Taye will then have to start a second marathon for his client: the trial in Belgium of the attacks of March 22, 2016, starting in September. There, there will be a popular jury, jurors drawn by lot. But this week in Paris, it is before professional judges only that he will plead. Less room for lyricism, more legal arguments.
On the form that these pleadings will take,It depends on the lawyers, of course. Everyone has their habits. Often, they started by taking all their notes, and sometimes some press articles. Then they defined a kind of “table of contents” so that their demonstration follows a thread. Master Negar Haeri defended Mohamed Amri, this young man from Molenbeek who brought Salah Abdeslam from Paris to Brussels on the night of November 13 to 14, 2015. “I think there will be a lot of emotion. You really have to get into the subject, be extremely focused, not go out of yourself, remember that there is nothing more important than the proposed we have to defend. This extreme concentration will allow me to forget that this is an extraordinary trial. It is very powerful, it is a moment that punctuates a very long hearing.
“The idea is not to have any regrets the next day, not to wake up by redoing the pleading and thinking that we should have said certain things that we should not have said. These are hours of work, of reflection… All of this has been maturing for a very long time.”Negar Haeri, Mohamed Amri’s lawyer
The defense lawyers are only about thirty, against more than 350 black dresses on the benches opposite, for the civil parties. They distinguished themselves, in particular, last March, all leaving the courtroom theatrically to protest against the president of the court, who had left demonstrations of annoyance, ironic applause in the room during an interrogation of Salah Abdeslam.
Exercising the rights of defence, presenting his client in his best light to obtain an acquittal or the lightest possible sentence, this is a charge they have been carrying for months. Like Maître Marie Violleau, lawyer for Mohamed Abrini: “The pleading is the tip of the iceberg. But it is obviously not the entirety of a lawyer’s work with his client.” She explains why Abrini’s proposals evolved: “When you go around in circles in your cell and you are thrown into such a large courtroom and with this number of depositions from civil parties, you take the issues squarely in the face and you realize what is happened. It was enough for him to move forward in the version he had initially held. And it is the fruit of dozens of meetings in the visiting room, where we discuss the facts and what is going on in his head.
“We are here to explain what happened, to restore a certain number of forgotten or misinterpreted material elements.”Marie Violleau, lawyer for Mohamed Abrini
“We will not plead innocenceadds Me Violleau. He admitted a number of facts, but we can’t make him carry it all on his shoulders. The real leaders are dead. Should we condemn to life imprisonment someone who did not kill? So what to do with someone who has killed?
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Maître Violleau will plead penultimately, before the lawyers of Salah Abdeslam, the only member of the commandos still alive, who will plead on Friday, June 24. On the 27th, each of the defendants will be able to pronounce their last words in court. The verdict is expected on June 29.