Charlie Hebdo Judgment: Historical Trial With No Answer


At the beginning of the Charlie Hebdo trial, there was hope that France could leave a painful chapter behind with the judgments. In the end, however, the procedure could not answer the most pressing question.

A comment by Sabine Wachs, ARD-Studio Paris

He should give answers. The trial of the alleged helpers of the terrorist attacks of January 2015. It should help to understand: Why did 17 people die, brutally murdered by three Islamist terrorists? How could the three perpetrators put their plans into practice?

Only those who could have answered were shot by the police after their actions and could neither be heard nor judged. Instead, the anti-terrorist public prosecutor’s office had been investigating alleged backers and accomplices in the vicinity of the attackers for years. 14 people were charged, three in absentia. Most of those who were in the dock, however, are rather small fish, criminals, with a long criminal record, from illegal possession of weapons, drug deals, robberies to insurance fraud – cliché speaking, the normal career of many young men with no prospects, who live in poverty in French Suburban settlements grow up.

Nobody wants to have known anything

Some of the defendants’ avowal of Islam has been marginalized by themselves and their lawyers. One of the main defendants, Ali Reza Polat, said, for example, that he can pray three times a day and still continue with the women, with crooked business and the alcohol. When asked about their alleged complicity in the attacks, all of the defendants tried to pull themselves out of the affair.

Nobody wants to have known with what aim the three perpetrators had used their services. The knowledge gained from their statements barely exceeded what the investigators had gathered in terms of evidence in recent years. A fact that should have been clear to many before the start of the process.

Judgments below the required sentence

The court remained below the prosecutor’s sentence in the vast majority of cases. For the main defendant, Polat, who was present, there was still 30 years imprisonment instead of life, and the judges saw his complicity as proven.

The judges did not assign seven of the defendants a terrorist background, but they too were sentenced to prison terms, some of them several years. Because they were cogs in the machine that made the attacks possible with their criminal energy. That’s what’s left of the Charlie Trial, the judges’ testimony that anyone who supports terrorists, knowingly or unknowingly, faces harsh sentences.

The question “why” was not answered

In public, however, the process was perceived less as a constitutional process and more as a symbolic act. The attack on the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo was an attack on the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and so the trial stood for their defense and thus for the values ​​of the republic, which have been attacked by further new terrorist attacks in recent months.

He was given the adjective “historical”. Not only because of its size – 14 defendants, more than 100 lawyers and around 200 co-plaintiffs – but also because of its content. The entire process was filmed, from the beginning and throughout, the recording goes to the National Archives. Everything that was said in the 55 day trial remains documented. Everything that was not said, but also: Above all, the urgent question of “why” for many relatives and survivors was not answered.

Editorial note

Comments generally reflect the opinion of the respective author and not that of the editors.

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