French judges will try this week the first case linked to the November 2015 terror attacks that left 130 people murdered, as 31-year-old Muslim terrorist Jawad Bendaoud accused of helping hide the ringleader of the terror cell, appears in court.
Starting Wednesday, the court will seek to determine whether he was a fellow conspirator in the most bloody attack on French soil since World War II — or simply a thuggish petty criminal unknowingly caught up in it.
The case will turn on what he knew about two Muslim terrorists he agreed to lodge in his grubby apartment on the Rue du Corbillon in the tough Saint-Denis area north of Paris days after the attacks.
One of them was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a senior Islamic State jihadist who was the coordinator of the Paris attacks, while the other was an accomplice suicide bomber.
“I didn’t know they were terrorists,” Jawad shrugged on BFM television in a deadpan interview in the early hours of November 18 as anti-terror police surrounded his apartment.
“Someone asked me for a favour, I helped them out,” he said, wearing a leather jacket with his hair gelled back, in a clip that became a viral sensation.
Listeners wondered how he could be so naive — the capital was on lockdown at the time as police searched for jihadists on the run — and Bendaoud was arrested soon after he finished his nonchalant TV appearance.
The Saint-Denis native is “the one we laughed about having cried so much,” his lawyer Xavier Nogueras said.
Bendaoud will go on trial alongside one his friends, Mohamed Soumah, as well as the brother of Hasna Aitboulahcen, a woman killed in the jihadist hideout.
Bendaoud has a long criminal record and received an eight-year sentence for killing a man during a fight over a mobile phone. He was released in 2013.
Anti-terror police killed Abaaoud and his accomplice Chakib Akrouh, as well as Aitboulahcen, in a ferocious assault on their hideout that left the property riddled with bullet marks and structurally damaged.
Abaaoud and Akrouh, who were suspected of preparing a suicide attack on the La Defense business area of Paris, had been tracked to the apartment by the intelligence services.
A total of 130 people were murdered in the November 15, 2015 assaults by 10 heavily armed jihadists who attacked the national stadium, bars and restaurants as well as the Bataclan concert hall.
Only one of the Muslim terrorists survived, Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium four months later. He has refused to cooperate with investigators and remains in solitary confinement.
He is to go on trial in Belgium on February 5 over a shootout with police that left several officers wounded but led to his capture.
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