France Sends Brother of Paris Attacker, 6 Others to Prison
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A French court convicted seven young men who returned from weeks among the ranks of Daesh (ISIL) extremists in Syria, including the brother of one of the suicide attackers who targeted Paris in November.
The defendants, aged 24 to 27, were sentenced on Wednesday to prison terms ranging from six to nine years for taking part in a group recruiting French radicals to join a "terrorist group" in Syria in 2013-14 - namely Daesh - and for participating in military training and other activities.
Karim Mohamed-Aggad, the older brother of one of the extremists who attacked Paris' Bataclan concert hall on Nov. 13, received a 9-year term, the harshest penalty among the seven, since the prosecutor said he was one of the ringleaders.
Mohamed-Aggad claimed he went to Syria only for humanitarian purposes and accused the French government of putting him on trial instead of his brother Foued, who returned to France with a Kalashnikov and suicide explosives strapped to his body in an operation that killed dozens in Paris.
Foued also went to Syria with the group.
After the verdict, Mohamed-Aggad's lawyer, Francoise Cotta, told reporters the ruling was "a decision of fear, returned in a France of fear, by a judge who is here to respond to the fear."
"He certainly suffered from his name," Cotta said.
Mohamed-Aggad learned about the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 victims dead from a prison cell. From the beginning of the trial, he insisted that it should center on what he did in Syria, not what his younger sibling did in France.
"You choose your friends, not your family. My brother did what he did - and it concerns only him," Mohamed-Aggad said.
The group of 10 from the Alsacian city of Strasbourg, all from families with origins in North Africa, left for Syria in December 2013. Two of them died at a checkpoint soon after arriving. Foued, the youngest, stayed behind after everyone else bailed out, and returned later to France for the Nov. 13 attacks. The assault on the Bataclan, where he ultimately died, was the deadliest in a series of attacks that night.
All seven men on trial said it was a humanitarian desire that spurred their departure for Syria. They insisted they had never used their guns, despite photos showing some of them sitting in a restaurant with Kalashnikovs on their laps.
Soon after arriving, the men testified, they realized they had made a mistake. They were collected by Daesh, taking daily lessons in weaponry. One said he was jailed and tortured by the extremists. Another said he realized that there was nothing humanitarian about what the extremists were doing in Syria.
"We found ourselves stuck there like idiots," said defendant Radouane Taher.
The seven made their way back to France singly or in pairs in March and April 2014. They were arrested in raids in May of that year, the Associated Press reported.
During their trial, the seven men were separated into two docks in the courtroom. Mohamad-Aggad and three others smiled frequently and sometimes laughed aloud to the irritation of the judge. On the other side were the men who returned first, who wore neither smiles nor beards.