An extraordinary and high-risk trial

In the room built especially for the occasion, only a balance is missing for the time being. Symbol of peaceful justice. Symbol which will attend what some already call “the trial of the century”. Almost six years after the terrorist attacks, the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015 is due to start on Wednesday September 8 within the confines of the Paris Court of Appeal, on the Île de la Cité. It took two full years to organize this hearing. Here is why this trial will be extraordinary …

  • A courtroom built for the occasion and an exceptional broadcast

Fifteen meters wide. Seventy-five long. It is a 750 m² room that was built within the walls of the historic courthouse in Paris to accommodate this trial. Brand new wooden benches next to a glass box designed to accommodate the fifteen accused, solidly supervised by the police.

A total of 550 people will be seated in the courtroom. What about the others? Fifteen rooms were monopolized to broadcast the debates on video continuously. With, in the main room, dominating the audience, a real control room intended to ensure the capture of the debates… “It is a pharaonic project, difficult to implement from a technical point of view, which will be able to accommodate others. trial ”, explained Eric Dupond-Moretti, the Minister of Justice, while visiting the premises on January 19. However, this room, the cost of which is estimated at 7 million euros, should not remain. After a few years and undoubtedly a few trials – including that of the Nice attack (Alpes-Maritimes) – it is expected to be dismantled.

  • Already 1,800 civil parties formed, 300 lawyers

There will be a lot of people… The figures are not yet final. But we already know that nearly 300 lawyers will be parties to this trial to defend the accused and represent the victims. At this date, nearly 1,800 civil parties intend to attend the debates or, at least, part of them. Some 800 other people have the right to become a civil party until the end of the debates. Not to mention the many journalists accredited for the occasion. A real headache for the holding of the trial …

At first glance, the organization counted on 30 minutes of testimony per victim. “Honestly, most will speak less, others will speak more, thinks Arthur Dénouveaux, president of the Life for Paris association. But that’s already 150 hours of auditions… ”

  • An uncertain and shifting schedule over nine months

Even before the hearing began, the president of the court saw that it would be too fair. Initially scheduled to last 131 days, the trial has already been extended to last nine months. The verdict is expected on May 25, 2022.

But will this schedule be kept? Since France has never known this type of trial, the president of the special assize court is advancing into the unknown. The first two days will be devoted to calling civil parties and witnesses. The third day will see the president read the summary report, an exercise that is often long and tedious but necessary, as provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

It is only then that the serious things will really begin. The hearings of the civil parties should take between five and six weeks, between the end of September and the end of October. The interrogations of the accused are not expected to take place before November 2.

  • Dantesque security conditions

How not to think about it? With so many people expected and such a strong emotional charge in the midst of the campaign for the 2022 presidential election, the authorities believe that this trial presents a high risk of threat of attack. “The police headquarters and the Ministry of Justice have been working for many months” so that this trial takes place in the “most serene possible” atmosphere, explained, the director general of internal security, Nicolas Lerner, on 6 last july.

Thus, a large security perimeter should be set up to “bunkerize” the courthouse on Île de la Cité, some accesses to which may be closed. A real logistical headache, as the Court of Appeal will continue to host other trials and to deal with other cases in parallel.

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