“I have my share of responsibility but I did not assassinate Aurélie Châtelain”. On the first day of his appeal trial for a planned Villejuif attack and murder in 2015, Sid-Ahmed Ghlam persisted in denying a crime for which he was sentenced to life.
“I admit having belonged to an association of criminals”, also admits the Algerian student.
“An association of terrorist criminals”, continues the president of the Special Assize Court of Paris, Emmanuelle Bessone. “Uh, yes, terrorist,” concedes the young man, clean shaven and wearing a suede jacket over a white shirt.
Standing in the box where four co-defendants also appear – a fifth under judicial supervision appears free – Sid-Ahmed Ghlam, 30, seems on the same line as during his trial at first instance last fall.
To his judges, he claimed to be in the process of “de-radicalization” after having been “locked into an ideology”.
“I have matured, I have changed (…) I have evolved in the right direction”, repeats today the young man who claims to be “out of this ideology in 2017, 2018”, without ever pronouncing the word “Islamism”. “By nature I am not violent”.
“I do not minimize the things I wanted to do”, he still maintains, but he maintains that he voluntarily gave up his plan to attack a church or that it was only “to scare” parishioners.
“Listening to you, I do not see how you have changed”, the apostrophe Me Antoine Casubolo-Ferro, lawyer for the family of Aurélie Châtelain, the murdered young woman.
At no time, as in the first instance, does Sid-Ahmed Ghlam look towards the bench of civil parties where the ex-companion, father and mother-in-law of Aurélie Châtelain sit.
– Promises of explanation –
“If he recognized what he did, that would allow us to really know what happened to my daughter, but I don’t think he’s going to go back on what he said. “, regretted out of hearing to AFP Jean-Luc Châtelain.
“Explanations” there will be, for his part said on the sidelines of the debates Me Christian Benoit, the young Algerian’s lawyer. This trial “will be an opportunity for Sid-Ahmed Ghlam to give a certain number of details, to give a lot of clarification on how things happened”.
Sid-Ahmed Ghlam was arrested in April 2015 shortly after his crime. His name is linked to those of several protagonists of the attacks of November 13, 2015, the trial of which opened at the beginning of the month.
According to his own statements, the three members of the Islamic State (IS) group who recruited him to carry out an attack in France were Abou Mouthana, identified as Abdelnasser Benyoucef, head of IS’s external operations, a certain Amirouche, identified as Samir Nouad, and an Abu Omar, identified as Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
The latter, operational chief of the commandos of the attacks of November 13, 2015, was killed during a police assault on his hideout in Saint-Denis five days after these attacks.
The prosecution’s argument, validated in the first instance by the Assize Court, claims that Sid Ahmed Ghlam shot down Aurélie Châtelain to steal her car, that he was accidentally injured by returning the weapon to his belt and that his injury forced him to give up his plan to attack.
At first instance, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a security sentence of twenty-two years and a definitive ban from French territory at the end of his sentence.
Among his co-defendants, Rabah Boukaouma, considered by the prosecution as the “chief logistician” of the operation, was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment, including a two-thirds security period. Sentences of fifteen and twenty-five years’ imprisonment were pronounced against two other accomplices Abdelkader Jalal and Farid Brahami.
The appeal trial is scheduled until October 29.