“it’s a colossal job” for lawyer Gérard Chemla who defends 132 victims

Six years after the Paris attacks, victims and families of victims, lawyers and judges are preparing to an unusual trial. The special assize court of Paris will judge from this Wednesday, September 8, 20 defendants, including Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor of the commandos who made 130 dead and 350 injured in Saint-Denis and Paris November 13, 2015. The trial which opens this Wednesday is historic: 9 months of hearings, 300 lawyers and 1,800 civil parties.

A dignified trial, a priority

“I don’t want a messy, barking pack trial, I promised my clients to restore as much dignity as possible to them,” insists Reims lawyer Gérard Chemlawhich defends 132 victims, including 90 direct victims, physically or psychologically injured mainly at the Bataclan. A dignified trial, difficult to promise for such a high-profile, non-standard case. “I’m not telling you there won’t be blood and emotions, but there won’t be any screaming from us”.

Regular updates on the proceedings to victims

For him and his team it’s a marathon that ends, 10,000 working hours. “Preparation is infeasible by one lawyer alone. Clearly you have two magistrates, two judges who for two years have only been doing preparation, and you have three prosecutors who have been almost full time since day one, so it’s a job colossal… in my opinion, no one can say: I know the whole file”, explains Me Gérard Chemla.

Even she doesn’t pretend to know everything and yet… Alicia Foxa lawyer at ACG lawyers associates, is assigned to the file since 2016. And everything has accelerated since January 2021: “Since the beginning of the year I have been working on the preparation for the trial, it’s a tunnel”. She was responsible for giving regular updates on the proceedings to the victims. Summary notes, which today represent 850 pages. It’s huge, but far from the 1.2 million pages represented by the investigation file for the November 2015 attacks.

The psychological impact?

Alicia Renard is preparing to put her life on hold to follow the 9 month trial. Because it is an unprecedented marathon which begins this Wednesday for lawyers. Three people of the firm, including Maître Gérard Chemla, will be full time on trial and an additional person will come, in particular during the hearings of victims. “I have also planned psychological assistance during the trial because I think that we will gradually sink into things that will invade us emotionally”, further specifies Mr Chemla.

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