Salah Abdeslam will be tried during the extraordinary trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015, which opens on September 8. The only surviving member of the commandos will be represented by a young lawyer, Olivia Ronen. The young woman from 31 years has already intervened in terrorist cases, including that of Nice or Erwan Guillard, a former soldier who left to do jihad.
Salah Abdeslam contacted her in November 2020. Since then, the lawyer comes to see him very regularly at the Fleury-Mérogis remand center, where he is detained, sometimes every week. So what did they say? Did they make some kind of pact? Did Abdeslam promise to speak? The lawyer says nothing about it. What is certain is that “I’m not going there at all costs”she said, but “the conditions, they are between him and me”.
Olivia Ronen knows that she will embody for many what cursed role of “devil’s advocate”. Nevertheless, if she decided to launch it is for this idea that any human being has the right to be defended. From her mentor, lawyer Thierry Lévy, she retained this: “The more serious the facts, the more the defense must be total, without concession. You have to go for it 100%, not be afraid to displease or shock.” “I only do criminal cases, and I am convinced that the tighter the noose, the more we are needed. And there, of course, the need is at its peak,” she says.
The young penalist will not be committed ex officio, but his fees will be modest, supported by legal aid. But she will not be alone, another lawyer of her generation, Maître Martin Vettes, 32, will be by her side to get through these 9 months.
Why his former lawyer threw in the towel
Salah Abdeslam’s silence and unpredictability are surely among the reasons why his former lawyer threw in the towel. Frank Berton had returned to see his client in prison and was preparing to accompany him during these 9 months at the assizes. He finally gave up, not seeing himself embarking on this ordeal, without no assurance on the attitude of his client.
Being Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer also means preparing for death threats, pressure, repercussions on his private life, all of this weighed in on the decision. Salah Abdeslam ended up challenging him.