Trial of the Trèbes and Carcassonne attacks: up to eleven years in prison required for the seven accused

Sentences of up to eleven years in prison were requested on Tuesday February 20 against the seven defendants tried five weeks ago before the Paris Special Assize Court in the trial of the Trèbes and Carcassonne attacks, which left four dead in 2018

Trial of the Trèbes and Carcassonne attacks: up to eleven years in prison required for the seven accused

Sentences of up to eleven years in prison were requested on Tuesday February 20 against the seven defendants tried five weeks ago before the Paris Special Assize Court in the trial of the Trèbes and Carcassonne attacks, which left four dead in 2018.

On March 23, 2018, Radouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old radicalized petty criminal, had “cowardly and by surprise,” according to general advocate Alexa Dubourg, shot dead a man at a homosexual meeting place in Carcassonne, then shot at police officers doing their jogging, before continuing his deadly journey to the Super U store in the neighboring town of Trèbes.

There, the one who claimed to be part of the Islamic State organization had “as a form of combat”, “cowardly and by surprise”, repeats the magistrate, killed an employee and a customer. He then took a cashier hostage before coming across the “heroism, honor, bravery” of gendarme Arnaud Beltrame, mortally wounded after taking the place of the hostage. Radouane Lakdim will be killed in the attack by the police.

The National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office (PNAT) recognizes this from the start of the requisitions: "Of course there is a gap" between the "absolute horror" described at the start of the trial and "the rest". Because after the grueling audio recordings of the hostage taking, the testimonies on the stand of those "who mourn their dead" and the "traumatized" victims who will live forever "alongside their lives", we then spoke more to this trial of “city traffic” rather than “Irako-Syrian zone”, admits Alexa Dubourg.

Because none of the accused is being tried for complicity, the investigation having shown that Lakdim had acted alone. Even if “everyone knew” that he was fiercely radicalized and “hated” the police, homosexuals, “disbelievers”, insists the PNAT. Five of the accused, aged between 24 and 35, are being tried for “terrorist criminal conspiracy”, two others for related crimes.

The girlfriend and “everyday friend”

The heaviest sentence, eleven years of criminal imprisonment, was requested against Marine Pequignot, the attacker's girlfriend, aged 18 at the time of the events. After two years of detention, she appeared free and is no longer radicalized, according to professionals.

But the one who, at the time of her arrest, had shouted “Allah akbar” – a “reflex”, she had justified – had “seen” Lakdim’s weapons, his jihadist videos on social networks, knew the “targets” that he was planning to aim... However, she never warned of the danger he could represent.

“Not out of naivety, carelessness or love… but out of dissimulation, because she adhered to the same ideology,” insists the second general advocate Aurélie Valente, convinced that the young girl was preparing a departure for Syria. And to evoke a “dangerous and diehard” profile about him.

Ten years of criminal imprisonment were also required against Samir Manaa, 28 years old, Lakdim's "everyday friend", who was "fully aware" of his "jihadist commitment", even "if he did not didn’t share it,” Ms. Valente said. Fifteen days before the attack, he had made “a bad choice” with “tragic consequences” by accompanying his friend to buy the hunting dagger which mortally wounded Arnaud Beltrame. Sentences of one year in prison, including four months suspended, to eight years in prison were requested against the other defendants.

Unlike the investigating judges, the PNAT has always considered that the terrorist qualification did not hold for several of them, in particular for the head of drug trafficking in the city where Radouane Lakdim and his brother-in-law dealt, and requested that 'she is abandoned.

The sentences requested are therefore far removed from the life imprisonment that the PNAT would have required against Lakdim if he were still alive or even from the maximum sentence incurred for “terrorist criminal association”, i.e. thirty years. But even if “it’s difficult for the victims”, the accused cannot carry “the weight of the absence” of Radouane Lakdim, says Alexa Dubourg. We must “condemn people for what they did and only what they did.” And, at this hearing, there is “no one in the box” to pay “the high price, the fair price in reparation for what was committed”.