Seven men and one woman went on trial on Monday (5 September) over a deadly 2016 truck rampage in the French city of Nice, accused of helping the driver who killed 86 people, including 15 children and teenagers, who had gathered to watch a fireworks display.
Attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was shot dead by police on the spot after causing devastation and chaos on a stretch of about two km (1.2 miles) on Nice’s seaside boulevard, where families had gathered for Bastille Day celebrations.
Prosecutors say the defendants, who face between five years in jail to a life sentence, helped Lahouaiej Bouhlel get weapons, rent the truck or survey the route he took for the attack. None is accused of taking part in the attack itself.
“Some people are hoping the trial will help them move forward,” said Jean-Claude Hubler, who chairs the Life for Nice victims’ association.
“Some are so angry that for them the trial will not lead to anything significant – we know that the terrorist is dead. We know that the secondary suspects will be there and will be condemned.”
Islamic State claimed responsibility a few days later, but offered no proof that the attacker, who had a record of domestic violence and petty crimes, had direct contact with the group.
The prosecutors’ office said that would be one of the points the trial would aim to clarify.
They could not say whether the defendants would plead guilty or deny any wrongdoing.
A lawyer for Ramzi Kevin Arefa, the only one of the defendants facing a possible life term, did not respond when asked how Arefa would plead. Little has been said publicly by the accused or their lawyers.
Three of the accused, allegedly close friends of the attacker, are accused of participation in a terrorist criminal association for helping him obtain weapons and the truck. Two of those face 20 years in jail, while the other – Arefa – faces a life sentence.
The five other defendants are accused of helping indirectly through arms trafficking and face shorter sentences. One of that group will be tried in absentia.
Because many among the 850 plaintiffs are based in Nice, the trial, which will take place in Paris, will be broadcast there too. The verdict is expected in December.
Share this article: