Paris attacks 2015: Historic trial of 20 suspects opens in France

A historic trial has started in France over the 2015 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead.

The shooting and bombing assault by Islamist State (IS) group extremists was the worst post-World War Two attack in France.

The only surviving attacker, Salah Abdeslam, is being tried with 13 other defendants at a purpose-built facility in Paris.

The trial is being described as the biggest in France’s modern history.

Over the next nine months, there will be over 140 days of hearings involving about 330 lawyers, 300 victims and testimony from François Hollande, who was French president when the attacks happened.

Ahead of the trial, Mr Hollande told French media that this was an important moment for the victims of the attacks, which he called an “act of war” at the time.
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IS admitted carrying out the co-ordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars on 13 November 2015.

Historic day of reckoning for night of terror
What happened on the night of the attacks?
The suspects arrived at court in police vehicles under heavy security on Wednesday morning. They were seated together in the defendants’ box, wearing face masks, before the trial opened.

Asked by the court’s top judge to identify himself, Abdeslam confirmed his name and said “there is no god but Allah” – an Islamic oath known as the Shahada.

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False ease precedes historic trial
Analysis box by Hugh Schofield, Paris correspondent
Half an hour behind schedule, the defendants were brought in. Abdeslam came in last, dressed in a black T-shirt with a thick beard

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When the judge asked him to give his profession, he answered – a soldier of IS.

For the trial, half of the Île de la Cité – the main island in central Paris – has been sealed off by security forces. Inside the court there is a throng of police, lawyers, journalists, survivors, relatives of victims and psychological support staff.

There was that air of false ease that often precedes big trials like this, participants chatting apparently happily together – in reality on tenterhooks for the start of what promises to be a historic event.

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