“I never sold him anything”, defends the Albanian arms supplier

At the specially composed Court of Assizes of Paris,

A former prison visitor, Patrick rubbed shoulders with Artan Henaj every Monday morning for three years, when the latter was imprisoned in the Meaux-Chauconin penitentiary center (Seine-et-Marne). “It creates links”, explains this 71-year-old retiree, called this Thursday to testify at the specially composed assize court bar. With the accused, “a nice boy”, this former professor of philosophy, who then passed through ministerial cabinets, talked a little about everything. He assures him: he has nothing to do with the defendants tried for the attacks of November 13, whom he was also able to meet. Beige suit, red shirt, metallic glasses, he sums up in one sentence the reason for which the 44-year-old Albanian is on trial. “He has the illusion that you can earn a living without working. By engaging in small traffic, he tries to “earn easy money”.

In the dock, hands behind his back, Artan Henaj, cream-colored sweater, short hair, imposing build, listens attentively to the translator who tells him the words of the witness. Released from prison in 2020 and placed under judicial supervision in the case of the July 14 attack in Nice, the one who called himself “Giovanni” should have appeared free. But his old demons have caught up with him. And last May, he was sentenced by the court of Montluçon (Allier) for drug trafficking to six years in prison and a ban on French territory.

“I offered a Kalashnikov to Ramzi”

So here he is back behind bars. “I didn’t expect that at all, but really not,” breathes Patrick, visibly a little disappointed, who points to “a total lack of responsibility” and “the immaturity” of the accused. “He shot himself in the foot. As he leaves, Patrick, who has ceased his activity as a prison visitor after having exercised it for eight years, gives him a small wave.

Drug trafficker, but also arms trafficker. Artan Henaj is thus judged for having provided the 7.65 pistol which was used by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel on July 14, 2016 at the end of his race, before being shot. The accused however never “met” the Tunisian, author of the massacre which left 86 dead and more than 400 injured on the Promenade des Anglais at the wheel of a ram truck. “I never sold him anything,” he insists. Indeed, he sold the weapon and five cartridges to Ramzi Arefa, the dealer of the terrorist whom he supplied in cocaine. Arefa, he adds, had confided to him that he needed it “for his personal use”.

In addition to the pistol, Artan Henaj provided him with a Kalashnikov “in poor condition”, without ammunition, found in the basement of the building where Ramzi Arefa lived. “I was the one who offered a Kalashnikov to Ramzi. He didn’t ask me. I don’t want to charge him”, promises the accused, who has sworn to the court to “tell the truth”. According to him, it was Aleksander Hasalla who provided him with these weapons. Real name Adriatik Elezi, this Albanian committed suicide in June 2018 while in pre-trial detention.

“Return to Albania”

In front of him, in the dock, sit Endri Elezi, Enkeledja Zace and Maksim Celaj, who appear free. They are judged, like him, for simple offenses of common law. Artan Henaj tries to explain to the court the family ties that unite these four Albanians, implicated in this part of the case. There is “Gino”, actually Endri Elezi, the cousin of Adriatik Elezi. His ex-wife, Enkeledja Zace, alias “Leda”, who would have served as an “interpreter” between him and Ramzi Arefa. But also Maksim Celaj who, according to Artan Henaj, was to recover the Kalashnikov hidden by Adriatik Elezi to bring it to his apartment.

After prison, Artan Henaj wants to “return to Albania”. He arrived in France somewhat by chance, in 2014 or 2015, “with a dream but it was shattered”, he proclaims. “That’s good, you have been sentenced to a ban on French territory,” retorts the president, Laurent Raviot. The interrogations of the other Albanians and the examination of the case of the eighth defendant, the Tunisian Brahim Tritrou, “a frequentation” of Artan Henaj, tried in his absence, must continue until Tuesday. Then it will be the turn of the pleadings of the lawyers of the civil parties from Wednesday.

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