The trial of the November 13 attacks is entering a new stage with the pleadings of the civil parties. The 330 or so lawyers worked together to divide up the main themes that the victims would like to see defended.
They were to speak on May 13. Another Friday the 13th, quite a symbol in this trial of the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis. But due to a case of Covid among the defendants, the pleadings of the lawyers for the civil parties had to be postponed for a week. Then two days, in order to give survivors and relatives of victims more time to “allow them to testify in better conditions” last week.
“What the civil parties say, they say it very well, with their words, with their heart, with their blood, with their sweat, with their fear”, recalls Me Catherine Szwarc, lawyer for civil parties. “All that is said.”
From this Monday, the lawyers of the victims and the families of victims of the attacks of November 13 will plead. Two pitfalls presented themselves to their representatives: how to plead after nearly nine months of debate, how to carry the voice of more than 1,800 survivors or relatives of survivors and also how to plead when there are nearly 330 lawyers represented and appointed in this trial?
For the first time, a collective plea
For this last question, the 327 lawyers for the civil parties have, for the most part, worked together. Not all of them will plead, half of them will speak. “There were a lot of questions asked, a lot of choices to be made and a lot of renunciations to be made”, explains Me Gérard Chemla, who represents around forty civil parties. “And the first renunciation was not to plead individually for each victim. We would then have had one minute per victim.”
“We would all have liked to plead for three hours, but would that have brought something interesting?”, Abounds Me Helena Christidis, who represents 26 civil parties.
For several months, the lawyers have been discussing, working together via meetings held in the morning, while hearings are held in the afternoon, or through meetings on Teams. No less than 25 Whats’App groups have also been created according to the sub-themes that emerge from the trial. “There was a permanent search for consensus with above all the desire not to oppose the point of view of the victims”, explains Me Chemla. Like the civil parties united on the benches of the Assize Court or on social networks, it is the collective that is the watchword.
“A memorial pleading”
This Monday, and until Tuesday May 31, the debates will open with the pleadings for the 130 victims who died during the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis. In turn, the lawyers who participated in these collective working groups will speak on the major themes defined throughout the trial. For greater efficiency and impact, the councils have divided up these cross-cutting themes, these major causes that they wish to highlight.
They will speak well of “the violence of the facts”, of the “attacks suffered by the victims”, but also of “the freedom to hate or not to hate”, of the “hijacking of religion” or even of “the vain expectation of humanity” of the defendants. For Me Christidis, it will be the impact of terrorism on children, on those who have lost a parent or those who live with trauma. “We will rely on certain individual cases to illustrate our point”, explains the lawyer, who recalls that the pleadings of the civil parties also aim to support public action, but also to recall the trauma of the victims and their experiences. .
“It is a question of a memorial pleading”, estimates Me Gérard Chemla. No question for the lawyers to ask for damages or to demonstrate the guilt of the accused, their role will be to “say that terrorism affects individuals but also great values and freedoms”, develops Me Christidis.
“Being up to the victims”
Another element will make these pleadings unprecedented as the lawyers take the floor after nine months of debate. “It is not a question of redoing the trial, warns Me Catherine Szwarc. This pleading, it must allow to rise a little to give to the magistrates, who will withdraw to judge, a taste, an idea, a feeling, an experience, an emotion but also the legal elements that we were able to draw on during the hearing which is oral. The Montpellier lawyer will plead with notes but will not write her text in advance.
Bring “something more”, “something more global” by this pleading which will go down in history and in the archives.
“I’m not here to put on a show, sweeps Me Catherine Szwarc. I have clients that I defend, who have suffered, I’m in a trial before a specially composed assize court and I’m going to do my job as well as possible.” The victims as the leitmotif of these speeches.
“Being in a room specially built for the trial, which is filmed, obviously there is a little additional pressure, recognizes Me Helena Christidis. This pressure is that of being up to the victims.