“The more the vice tightens, the more our role is essential”, estimates this young criminal lawyer of 31 years who has already defended several defendants with a radicalized profile.

Olivia Ronen, 31, is the Parisian lawyer who has the heavy and delicate task of defending Salah Abdeslam, the main defendant in the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015 which left 130 dead and nearly 500 injured in Paris and St Denis.

I know it won’t be easy“, declared the lawyer to AFP a few days ago. Since the opening of the hearing before the Special Assize Court of Paris, this Wednesday, September 8, all eyes have been on his client: Salah Abdeslam, 31, the only survivor of the commandos of the November 2015 attacks. “First of all, I want to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger”he said in his first words to the court this Wednesday, September 8.

A contact in the summer of 2018

It was Salah Abdeslam who contacted Olivia Ronen in the summer of 2018 from Fleury-Mérogis prison, where he is being held under very high security. “It was a huge surprise”entrusts the criminal lawyer to the Parisian . The lawyer then went to the visiting room of Fleury in September 2018 to meet him, specifies The Parisian. “We talked a lot, I thought there was something to do”specifies the lawyer to our colleagues. “I like challenges, putting myself in danger (…) We are not defending a cause, but individuals. Even if sometimes we try to exclude someone from humanity, this person is just as much a part of it as we are., she adds. She believes that the role of the lawyer is essential when “the noose is tightening“.

SEE ALSO – Paris attacks: what can we expect from the trial?

Profile very distant from the media tenor of the Lille bar Frank Berton, a time the lawyer of Salah Abdeslam, Olivia Ronen was officially appointed last November. But the one who repeats that she does not wantattract light» had been careful not to advertise it, and had postponed as much as possible the moment when she would find herself in the spotlight of the media. Before the start of the trial, the lawyer did not wish to comment on the state of mind of Salah Abdeslam or on the way in which he intends to approach the hearing, he who has remained silent for years.

A “big boss»

Slender and elegant silhouette, black hair in a bun high on the head, Olivia Ronen is unknown to the general public but not in the profession. When she puts on her black dress, she has “great strength of conviction“, an energy “incredible“, assures his colleague Me Fanny Vial, also in defense in the trial of November 13. Her colleagues describe her pell-mell as “brilliant”, “early”, “hard worker”extremely demanding of herself», «discreet” or “ultra-efficient”.

Born in 1990, Olivia Ronen grew up in Paris. Her father is a business owner. Her mother, a civil servant in the Ministry of Finance, quickly stopped working to raise her four daughters. She did ten years of classical dance and then theater “up to eight hours per week“, is moving towards literary studies before branching off to law school and the school of the bar. The penal is aevidence“and she fights”like crazyto obtain an internship with the famous criminal lawyer Thierry Lévy (who died in 2017).

She took the oath in 2016 and was elected secretary of the conference – these young lawyers from the Paris Bar elected for one year after an eloquence competition to, in particular, be appointed to court cases. . She thus inherits cases of small foiled attacks, defends Erwan Guillard, an ex-soldier who left to do jihad in Syria.

The lawyer confides that she was marked by a “feeling of helplessnesswhen one of her clients, involved in the Nice attacks but who challenged the terrorist qualification of the prosecution, committed suicide in prison in 2019. A fight to which she is sensitive, she who wrote her memoir on “ the place of prison in the fight against recidivism “. She has already intervened for the benefit of radicalized young people – which could explain why Salah Abdeslam called on her services -, but also members of the far-right movement.

Olivia Ronen likes to work alone, opened her practice alone but called on a colleague of her generation to help her defend Salah Abdeslam: Martin Vettes, 32, with whom she has already worked on several cases. sitting. With our “five years at the bar“everyone,” said Mr. Vettes from his side, “We approach this trial with humility“. “How this ‘non-standard’ trial will happen, no one knows. We go there, not full of certainties, but with determination“.

SEE ALSO – November 13: “I try not to expect anything”, testifies a victim on the eve of the trial