Survivors of the November 2015 Paris attacks began testifying in a landmark trial on Tuesday, facing trial in the presence of more than a dozen defendants in court.
Suicide bombings and gun attacks on bars, restaurants, the Bataklan concert hall and the National Stadium by three jihadist groups – planned in Syria and later claimed by the Islamic State group – killed 130 people. And about 350 were physically injured.
A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of us. I can still feel the noise and the stench as well as the explosion in my body.
Pieces of meat everywhere
Pierre, who was part of a Republican Guard patrol at the Stade de France stadium on the night of the attacks, said in a trembling voice, “I was shocked to see the human torso cut in half and pieces of flesh everywhere.”
In his 33-year career, he had never seen anything like it. “No training prepares you for suicide bombing,” Pierre said.
“I felt a jolt in my body,” said Gregory, another member of the patrol that day. “I wasn’t scared and I didn’t feel any pain. But it made it worse, because I had never felt that way before.
Gregory, who testifies in uniform like his colleagues, remembered another thing: “When I got home, I realized that pieces of flesh were stuck in my hair.”
November 2015 Paris attacks case: Survivors, victims’ families begin testifying in court.
Some of the survivors told AFP that as horrible as it was to tell their stories in a crowded courtroom, they felt they had to do it.
“I want to go through it, it’s part of my reconstruction effort,” said Marco, 31, who was sitting on the roof with a group of friends at the Belle Acupe Cafe in central Paris when gunmen attacked. , One of whom died. That, Victor.
“I want to confront these people, I want to see who their victims were,” Marco told AFP before Tuesday’s operation.
That night, 39 people were killed on the roofs of bars and cafes.
A total of 14 defendants are being tried in person in the largest trial in modern French history, and six others will be tried in their absence, most of them facing life imprisonment.
The only surviving gunman is Salah Abdel Salam, a dual French Moroccan national who has repeatedly tried to advance the operation in the first weeks with unscheduled interventions that have already angered survivors. ۔
The presiding judge has scheduled the statements of 15 witnesses, beginning with the survivors at the Stade de France stadium, then with the cafes and finally with the survivors of the Bataklan concert hall massacre.
“I’m terrified,” said Edith Sirat, 43, who rescued her from Bataklan.
At first, he said, he didn’t see the point in going back to dramatic events because “everything has been said a thousand times.”
Instead, she said, she wanted to talk about her life since those events.
But when she went to hear the case at an early stage, she realized that each investigator had a different version of what happened that night.
“Maybe I underestimated the importance of witnessing, and maybe now I’ll focus on what I saw and heard,” he said.
Many witnesses need help to overcome their anxiety about addressing the court, said Gerard Chamla, a lawyer representing 15 of the survivors.
“A lot of people are guilty of being a survivor, for not being able to say anything and for fear of being broken,” he said.
“Being overwhelmed by emotions or crying in public is not a sign of failure,” Camilla told her clients.
Witnesses face the court when they testify, and a bench of defendants is placed behind them.
But many survivors wondered if they should turn around to address the accused, especially Abdul Salam.
When Abdul Salam told the court last week that the attacks were “inevitable”, Marco, who was in the audience, jumped in his footsteps.
“I started abusing him,” he said. “A wounded friend spoke to me, but I stood still, staring at him.”
The trial is set to continue until May 2022.