Anti-terrorism judges question defense secrecy

Despite more than two decades of companionship with jihadism in France and Belgium, Franco-Syrian imam Bassam Ayachi has never been convicted by a court. Now 75 years old, the monk with the sulphurous aura and the long white beard has been appearing – free – since Tuesday April 5 before the 16and Chamber of the Paris Criminal Court for “terrorist association of criminals”. Warned in the same case, Hachimi Melhab, in pre-trial detention since 2018, appears for the same facts.

Justice accuses them of having exercised responsibilities or fought for Syrian rebel armed groups in the Idlib region – still today under the control of armed groups opposed to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad – between 2014 and 2018. the case of Imam Ayachi, the order for remand to the criminal court accuses him of having played a role of spiritual guide within the Islamo-nationalist group Ahrar Al-Sham and of having “compacted” with the group jihadist Front Al-Nusra, which presented itself at the time as the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, or to have frequented the group of Omar Diaby – also known by his pseudonym Omar Omsen –, a jihadist from Nice who played a particularly important role in the recruitment of young French people to lead jihad in Syria.

Declassification requests rejected

Imam Ayachi does not deny his role in Ahrar Al-Sham, which has now almost disappeared but which is not considered a terrorist group by the European Union, the United States or the UN. On the other hand, he claims to have been in contact with the Al-Nosra Front and the groups of Omar Diaby in order to spy on them on behalf of the French and Belgian intelligence services. As for Mr. Melhab, who is accused of having fought within the Al-Nusra Front, his defense is identical: he acted on behalf of Imam Ayachi and informed him of the actions of foreign jihadists present in the area. .

Read also: 71-year-old jihad veteran arrested in France

The examination and discussion of the facts were delayed on Tuesday, April 5, by a debate on constitutionality raised by Mr. Ayachi’s lawyer, Mr.and Joris Monin de Flaugergues. But the priority question of constitutionality (QPC) posed by the lawyer is precisely at the heart of the file and the trial of Imam Ayachi. For him, his client is blamed “to have actively participated in terrorist groups when he actually participated in the fight against these groups, without the intelligence services agreeing to lift the defense secret in order to prove his role”.

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