The trial of the Thalys attack began on Monday, November 16, on a misunderstanding, which it is feared that it will not be the last.
This first day of the hearing was devoted to examining the personality of the main accused, Ayoub El-Khazzani, a 31-year-old Moroccan jihadist who had burst in armed with a Kalashnikov and 270 ammunition, on August 21, 2015, in a Thalys train connecting Amsterdam to Paris before being mastered by passengers.
In the glass box, three of the four defendants – two Moroccans and an Algerian – wear headphones around their necks to receive the translations of the interpreters in Arabic made available to them by the Special Assize Court of Paris. El-Khazzani learned most of his rudiments of French during his five years behind bars; he prefers to express himself in that language. But he is missing words. After reading the summary of the case, the president, Franck Zientara, asks him if he recognizes the facts. El-Khazzani rises, slightly stooped, his hands clasped on his stomach, and answers “Yeah”.
“All the facts?, inquires the magistrate
– Yeah, the whole thing. “
The president hesitates. Ever since he admitted having wanted to carry out a terrorist attack on the Thalys 9364, El-Khazzani has been constant in his line of defense: he had planned to kill American soldiers in retaliation for the bombings in Iraq and Syria. Never, he proclaimed throughout the instruction, did he intend to “Slaughter” civilians, namely other passengers. Three American tourists, including two soldiers on leave, were in fact present in the car where the attack took place, the very ones who neutralized the assailant. But about twenty passengers – one was wounded by gunshot – brought a civil action. The president resumes:
“I remind you that the assassination attempts with which you are accused relate to all the civil parties, not only to the three Americans.
– Yeah, I agree. “
Did El-Khazzani change his line of defense at the last minute without notifying his lawyer, or did he just not fully understand the question put to him? Aware of the linguistic limits of the accused, the president cautiously suggests that he use an interpreter: “I think it’s better when it’s translated”, slips the magistrate. In very hesitant French, El-Khazzani ensures that he understands what he is being told and will seek an interpreter in case of doubt.
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