Survivor of 2015 Paris nightclub attack says relieved after conviction

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Relief washed over Bataclan attack survivor Olivier Laplaud as the judge handed down a life sentence without parole for Salah Abdeslam, sitting a few feet away in the Paris courthouse.

Justice was served, Laplaud said, and now the healing could begin.

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“The anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen, whether we’re going to be able to deal with it, is gone,” Laplaud told Reuters.

“The important thing was that the process followed its course and that it happened peacefully. That justice has been done.”

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The 2015 Paris attacks by a 10-man Islamist squad targeting the Bataclan auditorium, six bars and restaurants and the Stade de France sports stadium killed 130 people, the deadliest in peacetime post-war France.

Laplaud, 40, was with his wife, uncle and aunt at a concert by American rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan when militants sprayed the concert hall with automatic fire.

The family hid with several dozen other revelers in an observation box as the carnage unfolded below them.

On Wednesday night, as at many of the hearings over the past 10 months, Laplaud was in court to watch Abdeslam, the only surviving assailant, and 19 other defendants linked to the attack, stand trial.

“I fixed my eyes on their faces, but there was very little reaction,” Laplaud said of the moment the decision was pronounced.

the final word

Abdeslam, accused of terrorism and murder, received the maximum possible sentence — life in prison with no prospect of release — a punishment meted out just four times since it was introduced in the 1990s.

The other 19 men convicted of planning, coordinating and helping to organize the attacks were also found guilty, with sentences ranging from one year to life in prison.

Abdeslam, whose lawyers said they found the sentence disproportionate, has 10 days to appeal.

In a closing speech, the prosecutor said that a guilty verdict still would not “give victims the peace of mind they had before, nor heal their wounds, nor bring the dead back to life.”

He added, however, “but it can at least reassure them that justice and the law had the last word.”

The trial helped survivors and victims’ families form bonds with one another and presented the opportunity to confront those linked to the attack, said Claire Josserand-Schmidt, a lawyer representing 37 victims.

“This allowed them to hear the accused. It allowed them to be heard and to be sure that the accused understood their suffering,” Josserand-Schmidt told France Inter radio.

Laplaud said the verdicts marked the beginning of a new phase in his healing process — one that he said would feel empty without the courtroom routine he and others have become accustomed to.

“It’s up to us to make sure everything goes well now,” he said. “Let’s try to think of other things, go on vacation, turn the page.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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