The soap opera stirred the actors and observers of the “trial of the century” throughout the second week of the end of year holidays.
Before the suspension of the proceedings on December 17, for two weeks, of the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015, the risk of a disruption of the hearing schedule due to Covid-19 was known. A year ago, that of the January 2015 attacks was forced to a one-month suspension for the same reasons.
It is therefore no great surprise that on December 27, the announcement of the positive test of one of the accused. In this case, it is the main accused in this trial: Salah Abdeslam. The only living member of the Paris and Saint-Denis terrorist commandos was infected at Fleury-Mérogis remand center in Essone, where he is imprisoned in building D3 which was hit by a cluster.
Resumed on January 6 with a negative test?
The young man, who claimed to be a “fighter of the Islamic State” in the first weeks of the hearing, had not appeared in the box since the end of November, protesting in December against the conditions for the deposition of Belgian investigators , heard anonymously by the court, by videoconference from Brussels. Salah Abdeslam, like other detainees, then decided to no longer participate in the hearings, by remaining in the jails of the Paris courthouse.
His state of health does not appear to be of concern. But for the past few days, speculation has been rife as to how long the debates, which will resume this Tuesday, January 4 at 12:30 p.m., could be affected. Because the absence in the box of the main accused is difficult to imagine, while the examination of the facts must begin.
The first information suggested that the hearing could resume on Thursday, January 6, because of the ten-day period of isolation imposed on Salah Abdeslam. This ending on January 5, a negative test could allow the resumption of the trial. The two lost days would be recovered later, so as not to upset the entire schedule, and the scheduled interventions of various witnesses. These two days are devoted to the interrogation of Mohamed Abrini. Best friend of Salah Abdeslam and central figure in the case, he is accused of having participated in the preparation of the attacks, in particular by transporting terrorists from Brussels to Paris.
Imbroglio around the period of isolation
But at the end of last week, new information foreshadowed a much longer suspension of the trial, until at least January 13, due to an extension of the period of isolation of Salah Abdeslam in Fleury-Mérogis: “He was indicated by medical personnel that the initial duration of the isolation (10 days) did not correspond to the directives concerning the Covid (17 days of isolation) ”, argued to the parties the president of the Assize Court especially composed, Jean-Louis Periès.
A few hours later, a new twist came back to this hypothesis. In the light of “various interpretations according to the penitentiary establishments on the duration of isolation in detention in the event of a positive test for Covid”, Jean-Louis Periès once again paved the way for a resumption of the debates on January 6. On one condition, however: that the PCR test to which it will be subjected is negative. The result of this will not be known until January 5, that is to say Wednesday.
These considerations came as the government increased the isolation period from 10 to 7 days for people who are Covid-positive when they have a full vaccination schedule – it is not known whether this is the case for Salah Abdeslam, due to the Confidential medical information.
Start of response at 12:30 p.m.
In any case, the debates will be open Tuesday at midday and the lawyers of the civil parties as of the defense, as well as the public prosecutor, will undoubtedly have a point of view to express on this situation.
On Monday, the national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office announced that “medical investigations were carried out by the president of the specially composed assize court during the time of suspension of the debates (…). When the trial resumes tomorrow Tuesday, the court will examine the results of the examinations carried out in order to verify whether the substantive proceedings can resume on Thursday, January 6, 2022. “
The continuity of the trial will also depend on the state of health of the 19 other defendants. For the time being, none of them has been declared positive for Covid-19.