IWe need to see each other. We are in April. We only have four or five meetings left… We have to move on. »
His voice is as poised as it is determined. Me Olivia Chalus-Penochet knows it well: the clock is ticking. More than five months before the opening of the trial of the attack of July 14, 2016 in Nice. It seems far; it’s already tomorrow. This lawyer from Nice reminds her colleagues of this, she who coordinates the “14-7 lawyers” collective.
A historic trial, an unprecedented approach. Twenty black dresses are united to prepare for this major legal meeting, expected from September 5 to December before the specially constituted Paris Assize Court. The bar of Nice, joined by that of Grasse, will carry the voice of hundreds of civil parties. 86 dead, 450 injured, 865 civil parties at the investigation stage, 30,000 people present on the Promenade des Anglais during the attack on the truck: the challenge is immense.
“There is a before 14 and an after 14”
This is why the Nice Bar is organizing a day of free consultations for the victims of the attack, this Friday in Nice, with the Montjoye association (1). The exchanges will take place in the lawyers’ library. This is where we find about fifteen of them, during a preparatory meeting. They invited two representatives of associations.
“There is a before 14 and an after 14. There is a lot of collateral damage. Couples who separate…”testifies Patrick Prigent, vice-president of Life for Nice. “Psycho Wounded”Patrick recounts his evening of horror, his invisible wounds, these long years “come back from this drama”. He is moved by “number of children and adolescents affected in this attack”. He would like “file a complaint against these acts of looting” which shocked him so much.
Municipal policeman, Patrick Prigent had come to watch the July 14 fireworks in civilian clothes. “I am therefore the only one to be recognized as a victim for the municipal police. It is due to a uniform!” Me Chalus-Penochet intervenes: “Those who were present can do the process too…”
Patrick Prigent would like to testify at the bar. He hesitates. “I’m afraid of getting angry…” “So what?”, he hears himself reply. Benevolently, Me Chalus-Penochet delivers his usual message: “If you don’t come, who will do it for you? It’s YOUR moment. You have to go all the way. But it can’t be improvised. You have to prepare now.” Me Nicolas Gemsa, counsel for Patrick Prigent, supports: “We must not leave the room empty of civil parties.”
Because opposite, there will be eight defendants, including two in the box, surrounded by an army of lawyers. Some will answer for a simple possession of a weapon, without terrorist connotation. “A bad for a goodbelieves Me Benjamin Ollié. It is a guarantee of condemnation, since these are material facts.”
Such is the obsession of the civil parties: to see the acquittals rain down at the end of the trial. In particular among the protagonists, tried for association of terrorist criminals. So the lawyers dissect the file, prepare the legal ground, like the working group of Me Ollié. “For the association of criminals, you have to have an idea for a project, but not the precise project. The simple idea that it [le tueur au camion, ndlr] was going to participate in a terrorist project, that’s enough.”
“It depends a lot on us”
Each his own group. Everyone has their own mission. My Laurie Haaz and Stéphanie Abier-Rougeron are working on a “unprecedented mode of operation in France” and “the heterogeneity of the impacted population”. They evaluate the shock wave of a “attack which can be qualified as low-cost”who hits “everybody” blindly, who “gives the impression that it’s getting closer to us, that no one is safe.”“That’s also why a lot of victims have moved…”notes Me Sophie Hebert.
The debates will be broadcast by video in Nice. They will also be filmed for the national archives. Patrick Prigent knows he will be “disappointed with this trial”. Me Chalus-Penochet wants to be more confident, and invites each victim to come forward: “If you think there is only the criminal conviction, you are going to be disappointed. But this trial is a space to put a truth. It depends a lot on us! The terrorist act has spread terror. You, you go spread resilience.”
(1) Free consultations Friday April 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., without appointment, at 19 rue Alexandre-Mari, in Old Nice. Info. www.barreaudenice.com/
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