France’s historic trial over the November 2015 attacks in Paris is due to deliver its verdict on Wednesday.
It took almost ten months of testimonies and interrogations to reach this point.
Gun and bomb attacks left 130 people dead in the French capital, including the Bataclan concert hall, restaurants, bars and the national stadium.
Salah Abdeslam and 19 other men are in the dock, accused of playing a crucial role in the country’s worst peacetime bombings.
Only 14 of them appeared in court, the other six having been tried in absentia.
In their closing arguments earlier this month, French prosecutors called for a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Abdeslam. They charged him with multiple counts of murder, aiding and abetting murder, membership in a terrorist organization, and participating in a conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping as a member of a terrorist organization. .
Abdeslam apologized to the victims on Monday, saying his remorse for those killed and injured was genuine and sincere.
“Who can sincerely apologize for so much suffering?” Abdellam said. He admitted making mistakes, but said, “I’m not a murderer, I’m not a killer.”
Abdeslam has remained silent about what happened on November 13, 2015. Since his trial began in September, he has had bouts of extremist bravado but has refused to answer most questions.
In April, his words began to leak and he gave lengthy testimony over several days that at times contradicted earlier statements, including his loyalty to Islamic State.
As the only alleged member of the Paris attackers not to have joined the self-proclaimed IS caliphate in Syria, he told the court he was a last-minute addition to the group. He said he ‘gave up’ on his mission to detonate his explosive-filled vest at a bar in northern Paris on the night of November 13 as his brother and other Islamic State extremists fanned out around the capital to mount parallel attacks.
A police explosives expert told the court that the suicide belt was faulty, but Abdeslam testified that he had disabled it.
After leaving the cafe, Abdeslam described desperate attempts to reach friends for help and take a taxi through Paris to the suburb of Montrouge. He first hid near Paris then fled with friends to Brussels, where he was arrested four months later.
Demanding the harshest sentence in French law, prosecutors pointed to these contradictions in Abdeslam’s testimony – from pledging allegiance to Islamic State at the start of the trial and regret that the explosives did not go off. until the claim that he changed his mind in the bar and deliberately deactivated the explosives strapped to his body because he didn’t want to kill people “by singing and dancing”.
“Not everyone is a jihadist, but everyone you judge has agreed to join a terrorist group, either out of conviction, cowardice or greed,” prosecutor Nicolas Braconnay told the court earlier this month.
During his closing arguments on Monday, Abdelslam’s lawyer, Olivia Ronan, told a panel of judges that her client was the only one in the group of assailants who did not set off explosives to kill others that night -the. He cannot be convicted of murder, Ronan said.
“If a life sentence with no hope of regaining freedom is handed down, I’m afraid we’ve lost a sense of proportion,” Ronan said.