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« you will never forget that he never stopped doubting »

On the 146th day of the trial for the November 13 attacks, the defense of Mohamed Abrini, who is accused of having participated in the attacks, requested, on Thursday, a reduction in his sentence to thirty years in prison, against the life sentence required by the prosecution. . For more than two hours, the two lawyers for the « man in the hat » were above all keen to recall the « humanity » of the accused.

« We will never forget the suffering », loose master Marie Violleau, towards the victims, at the beginning of her river pleading devoted to the defense of her client, Mohamed Abrini, Thursday, June 23. A brief concession that quickly gives way to a long plea, aimed at reminding all members of the court of the humanity of his client.

In the newspapers, he is the one we used to call « the man with the hat ». Bob screwed on the head, he had been filmed by CCTV cameras during the Brussels attacks in March 2016, pushing a cart with two other suicide bombers. Abrini then fled without blowing himself up. Best friend of Salah Abdeslam, this 37-year-old Belgian-Moroccan is also the one who accompanied the members of the commando to Paris the day before the attacks of November 13, 2015. During the trial, he explained that he was « scheduled for the 13 « after finally giving up on dying.

For his lawyer, he is above all « a man, with parents, grandparents, a man who has blood running through his veins. » Before continuing: « he tried to wear shirts when he could, when they were clean and well ironed », to appear before the court. A precaution that he does not seem to have taken on this day of the hearing. Black T-shirt, black pants, black hair cut short, the defendant with equally black eyes, listens attentively, his lawyer, from his cubicle.

« Who is Mohamed Abrini? « It’s uncertainty »

Throughout the trial, « he tried to remain dignified, he tried to answer all the questions. He respects this institution, he respects the Assize Court, contrary to what I heard in the requisitions.  » And to relaunch louder: « Who is Mohamed Abrini? It’s uncertainty. He speaks, but too little. He’s a poet. He sends us small papers sometimes with poems », describes the lawyer.

One thing is certain, assures the lawyer: « Mohamed Abrini is not a soldier of the Islamic State. Mohamed Abrini is guilty, you will find him guilty and he will be sentenced. But you will never forget that he is not never ceased to doubt ».

As if to justify her approximations and her absences from the hearings, the magistrate recalls that « we expected him to behave normally. But when we come out of 70 months of isolation and overnight, we manage to this place, how do you want us to be normal …”, storms the lawyer. We threw him in this prefab clinical room with white lights, his eyes hurt, his big black eyes. »

Taunting terrorism specialists, the magistrate tackles the testimonies of researchers who have succeeded at the helm in recent weeks. « They were attractive, sometimes imprecise. We liked Hugo Micheron a lot, but what does Mohamed Abrini know about? » Asks the lawyer. « You are more competent than that, » she continues towards the court. « You, you know men ».

« The death of his brother in Syria, the tipping point »

Determined that the audience better understand her client, the magistrate also returned to her childhood. His passion for football, video games, petty crimes, the room shared with his brother. And that day when everything changed with the death of this dear brother. « He was desperate for his brother’s departure to Syria. When he disappeared, we wanted to go find him. This is the tipping point: the brother’s departure and death ».

Then followed the arguments aimed at relativizing his jihadist involvement. His stay in Syria which allows nothing to be confirmed, his short stay in England, the relationship with his girlfriend. Until he gave up trying to blow himself up on the evening of the November 13 attacks. Certainly, « he rented a car. He is, at that time, a moral and material support. He brings help to the cell. It’s complicity, he will be condemned for that. But in his head, He doesn’t want to go there anymore. It’s not nothing to give up this stadium. He leaves, he slams the door. He won’t hold a Kalashnikov in his hands. On November 13, he won’t kill anyone. « .

« Isolation is a prison within a prison »

This is the reason why his lawyer rejects the life imprisonment formulated a few weeks earlier by the three general attorneys. « Perpetuity is a word full of fantasy, almost Jupiterian, which says nothing but does everything. Perpetuity hovers above our heads like a raptor. Perpetuity is removing the piece of sky between bars, it’s taking a man and bringing him back to the status of an animal. It’s taking yourself for God. We only close our eyes to the dead », asserts the lawyer in the middle of a silent audience.

« In addition to prison, for a man labeled as a terrorist, there is isolation. In prison, you are free from nothing. Even the most absolute privacy, you are deprived of it. […] The worst status for an inmate is oblivion, oblivion in filth. Isolation is what puts states to shame”. And to resume even more: “Today, prison in prison is his life. Keep in mind that he is a man who assumes. He always doubted, until he didn’t go there. Life is too much when you know the man, too much for a man who is capable of writing poems ».

For all these reasons, Maître Violleau proposes « a 30-year sentence with the security you want ». « Don’t forget the words of the accused in the midst of everything he could have said ‘If I could have, I would have bought universal peace’, that’s also Abrini », he said. she concluded.

“He has a beating heart”

After a recess, it is the turn of Mohamed Abrini’s second Belgian lawyer, Stanislas Eskenazi, to speak. Like his colleague, a few minutes earlier, his argument opens with a thought for the victims. Smiling, almost jovial, he begins by evoking the memory of a couple who lost a child, met at random in the streets of Paris. « We exchanged a few words, it was sweet, » says the lawyer. And then like his colleague, he returns to the human character of his client. « I’ve shared seventy prison visits with him for six years. While the victims came to testify, you’d be crazy to say he didn’t feel anything. He has a beating heart. »

He also retraces the decor of his childhood. « Molenbeek is not a Rohingya camp and we eat our fill there, but we must try to understand why we Belgians hold the record for the number of departures per inhabitant in Europe. It is a question of explaining the choices “, explains Stanislas Eskenazi who tells about the Brussels cafes where we meet, the dice games, the tea, the hash.

« Cowardice is the most human thing »

After retracing his career, he gives the court one last piece of advice: « You must remember that Mr. Abrini has given up. I have heard from my opponents of Mr. Abrini’s cowardice. Cowardice is what he is more human. It reminds us that he has his feet firmly on the ground and not in the sky. This should reassure you. »

To conclude, he takes up the words of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, instigator of the attacks, who said to Abrini on November 12, 2015: « You will end your life in prison if you do not go there. Prove Abaoud wrong », he asserts. it as a final challenge to the court.

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