Former French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday during the trial held over the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks that he did not regret ordering airstrikes against the Islamic State group, which the attackers claimed. invoked as justification for the bloodshed.
A 10-man jihadist cell escaped detection to carry out the worst attacks in post-war history in France on the night of November 13, 2015.
Hollande was attending a friendly France-Germany soccer match at Stade de France stadium in Paris when the first suicide bomber detonated his jacket, prompting security officers to take him away as two more explosions went off.
Gunmen then opened fire on cafes and restaurants in a busy part of the capital and stormed the Bataclan concert hall, indiscriminately killing and taking hostages in a massacre which, at the end of at night, killed 130 people.
In court, Hollande launched a passionate defense of the airstrikes France carried out in Syria against ISIS, which claimed the Paris attacks as revenge.
“This group did not strike us for our actions abroad but for our lifestyles at home,” said Hollande.
“Democracy will always be stronger than barbarism. “
Acknowledging that he had reflected on his own responsibility, he said: “I would do the exact same thing (in Syria). I say this in front of the suffering complainants, those who have lost loved ones. It is France, we owed it to the massacred populations (in Syria).
It is still unclear how many assailants or their accomplices entered Europe via the migrant trail and remained on the run despite being on the intelligence services radar.
Some families of victims questioned whether the bloodshed could have been avoided, prompting a victims’ association, Life for Paris, to demand that Hollande be subpoenaed.
All the attackers were killed or ultimately shot by police, except Salah Abdeslam, a French national of Moroccan origin, who did not detonate his suicide jacket and was later captured in Brussels.
When the trial opened in September, Abdeslam accused Hollande of encouraging the attacks by going to war with ISIS.
“François Hollande knew the risks he was taking by attacking the Islamic State in Syria,” Abdeslam said.
In a sound recording of the attacks found at the Bataclan, we can hear the armed men telling their victims “that they had only François Hollande to blame” while they sprayed the theater with bullets.
“How did you feel about it? »Asked Jean-Marc Delas, lawyer for Life for Paris.
“It sounded like a sort of chorus, like a signing,” Hollande said.
It was “a message to make us give up our interventions in Iraq and Syria” and create “a rupture, a religious war” between the French.
France had been on high alert for jihadist attacks since the massacre of 12 people at the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper and four others during a hostage-taking in a Jewish grocery store for three heartbreaking days in January 2015.
“Every day we were threatened. We knew that there were operations in preparation, individuals mingling with the flow of refugees, leaders in Syria. We knew all of this, ”Hollande told the court.
“Unfortunately, we did not have the information that would have been decisive to prevent the attacks. “
The court rejected the objections of some defense lawyers to allow Hollande to testify.
His testimony is the final chapter in a marathon trial that is expected to last until May 2022.
In October, the court heard weeks of sometimes poignant testimony from survivors and relatives of the victims.
The trial is the most important in modern French history.
Some of the 20 defendants, including Abdeslam, face life sentences if found guilty. Six of the accused are tried in absentia.