November 13 trial: meeting the defense lawyers - THECHOWANIECS.COM

November 13 trial: meeting the defense lawyers

Don’t ask him why he chose this job, even his mother has trouble understanding. “She finds that it is not very cheerful”, smiles Edward Huylebrouck. Perhaps, but for him it is an honor to defend those who are suspected of the worst. At the moment, we can say that he is strong: he is assisting muhammad usman, one of the fourteen accused in the trial of the November 13 attacks. According to the investigators, this Pakistani, arrested in Austria shortly after the events, should have been part of the commandos who sowed death at the Bataclan and on the terraces of Paris. On a video released by Daesh, he can be seen in the middle of other jubilant fighters, harnessed like a soldier and carrying a heavy weapon. Just for that – association of criminals within the framework of a terrorist enterprise – Muhammad Usman faces twenty years in prison. “He has nothing to do with the attacks in Paris, they were not present at the time of the events and did not participate in the logistical preparation”, proclaims his defender. All his work will consist in trying to convince the magistrates of this. Given the atmosphere of this extraordinary trial, it is far from over.

Scrap alongside the accused of November 13? They are about thirty criminal lawyers to have accepted this formidable mission. All young – the most capped has just turned forty – all brilliant, all transported by the challenge and the feeling of living a historic moment in the salle des pas perdus of the former Paris courthouse, fitted out for the circumstance into a gigantic court of assizes. They will never admit it, but this case is their life. Nine months of hearings, twenty defendants (including fourteen present in the box, the others are presumed dead), 2,200 civil parties, several hundred journalists from all over the world, filmed debates for the story and an emotional charge without equal in the judicial annals of the 21st century.

Near the Paris courthouse, at the opening of the trial for the November 13 attacks © Abaca

Prezat Denis

Hooded and handcuffed

Everyone knows it: in this white-hot enclosure, the slightest of their words or gestures will be scrutinized by public opinion unfamiliar with the functioning of justice, and which often suspects them of collusion with terrorists. How many anonymous letters of insults and sometimes threats have they not received in recent months? How many evenings have they spent justifying themselves to their loved ones for having agreed to support the devil? “That’s almost the most exhausting thing, sighs Negar Haerione of the tips of Mohammad Amri (who brought back Salah Abdeslam in Belgium just after the attacks): having to constantly explain that we are just doing our job, going to the television sets to remind us that the acts committed by our customers were not committed by ourselves, and that therefore they do not soil us. » Impossible not to think about Jacques Vergesthe defender of the indefensible, of the former SS Klaus Barbie to the terrorist carlosand to whom the filmmaker Barbet Schroeder devoted a documentary titled The Advocate of Terror (2007). “When I was a student, Vergès was a reference, the one who came closest to the ideal of the lawyer”, remembers Karim Laouafi, who is also fighting for one of the defendants. It’s up to him now.

Admittedly, not all the defendants present in the ultra-secure box are eminent Daesh figures. Alongside Salah Abdeslam, the most famous of them and the only survivor of the murderous commandos, line up mainly second knives, who claim to have been unaware of the funeral enterprise with which they were associated. Nevertheless, their faces and their names are now synonymous with horror and their lawyers know it. Some could not hide their emotion when the survivors of the massacre came to testify at the bar a few weeks ago. “We ourselves are part of this carefree generation who drinks shots on the terraces of cafes, observes Xavier Nogueras, the other advice of Mohammed Amri. The victims might as well have been us. »


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