The courtroom built especially for the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015, June 4, 2021 at the Palais de Justice in Paris

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Almost six years after the facts, the special Assize Court of Paris will try twenty defendants, including Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor of the commando which sowed death in front of the Stade de France, on the terraces of bistros in the capital and in the Bataclan performance hall.

In front of them, nearly 1,800 victims. Close to the missing, wounded or simply survivors, all branded with terror, in search of justice, truths and memory.

“It’s going to be something tough (…) a monstrous trial”, fears Thomas Smette, a survivor of the Bataclan who was then 24 years old. “Me, I’m doing pretty well (…) the only thing it can bring is that others say to themselves I can also feel good”.

From the end of September and for several weeks, they will follow one another at the helm of the courtroom specially fitted out in the courthouse on Île de la Cité to tell the horror story.

This Friday evening, it begins with a carnage avoided in Saint-Denis, where three jihadists blow up their explosive belt near the Stade de France, packed for a France-Germany football. They will only kill one death, a miracle.

The attack continues in the streets of Paris where three shooters, including the head of the commando Abdelhamid Abaaoud, strafe the customers of four restaurants. Their bullets kill 39 people.

It ends in a bloodbath in the Bataclan hall, where three other jihadists methodically massacre 90 spectators at a rock concert, like the Kalashnikov, before being shot by the police or being blown up.

France is seized with fear. Its president François Hollande ordered the borders to be closed and declared a state of emergency, a first since the Algerian War more than half a century earlier.

The commando was only neutralized with the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, four days later, during an assault by the Raid on the Saint-Denis hideout where he was entrenched. Only Salah Abdeslam manages to slip through the cracks and reach Belgium, where he will be arrested four months later.

In front of the court and the victims, the investigators will recount the identification of the commando group of the Islamic State (IS) group, which left Syria to reach Europe by the migrant route.

They will detail the other operations of this Franco-Belgian cell piloted from the “capital” of the caliphate, its hunt, and will try to provide answers to THE question of the trial: how this perfectly identified jihadist group was able to escape the police services and hit Europe right in the heart?

Stubbornly silent since his arrest, the “survivor” Salah Abdeslam does not seem disposed to enlighten the judges. Neither on his role in the operation nor on the motivations of the commando.

The possible explanations of the other members of the jihadist cell expected in the box, such as the famous “man in the hat” of the Brussels attacks in 2016, Mohamed Abrini, remain just as improbable.

Presented as historic, this trial promises to be difficult for many victims. They hope for justice, truths and, perhaps, the end of their nightmares.

“I have to go. I will surely suffer but it is a step,” anticipates Cristina Garrido, a 60-year-old Spaniard who lost her son Juan Alberto at the Bataclan. “What I want is for (the defendants) to hear the pain they left behind,” she adds, in Madrid. “What they did was useless, absolutely nothing (…) It only served to destroy families.”