The Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office demands a trial for the attacker of the Nice basilica in 2020


The National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office (Pnat) requested the referral to the Assize Court of Brahim Aouissaoui, accused of having killed three people in the Nice basilica in 2020, a "deadly design" which is part of "religious fanaticism " carried by terrorist groups, according to the prosecution.

After less than three years of investigations, the Pnat requests that the attacker be tried for assassinations and attempted assassinations in relation to a terrorist enterprise, he indicated Tuesday, confirming information from Nice-Matin.

“It is a huge relief that the procedure is coming to an end,” reacted for AFP Me Philippe Soussi, lawyer for the husband of a victim and the French Association of Victims of Terrorism (AFVT).

On the other hand, "a dismissal of the case was requested concerning the acts of criminal terrorist association", specified the Pnat.

The investigation carried out in France, Italy and Tunisia did not make it possible to determine that he had been encouraged to take action nor that he had benefited from assistance in his project, according to the indictment signed on September 7 and consulted by AFP.

"We maintained until the end the illusion of a terrorist criminal association", a "catch-all offense" allowing "a maximum of means and procedural tools", the lawyer reacted to AFP of the suspect, Me Tewfik Bouzenoune.

Brahim Aouissaoui, a Tunisian aged 21 at the time of the events, is accused of having, on October 29, 2020, fatally stabbed Nadine Devillers, a 60-year-old faithful, Simone Barreto Silva, a Franco-Brazilian mother from 44 years old, then the sexton Vincent Loquès, 55 years old, father of two daughters.

The assailant brandished his knife and shouted “Allah akbar” when a municipal police patrol intervened in the basilica.

He was seriously injured by gunfire and taken to hospital. When he woke up, after two surgeries and a stay in intensive care, he claimed to have forgotten everything about the facts.

Throughout the interrogations, he maintained this position, "refusing to identify himself in images where he is perfectly recognizable" and "assuring that he does not remember anything", according to the final indictment.

After almost two years of avoiding the subject or invoking amnesia during telephone conversations with his family, he suggested on the telephone in July 2022 to one of his brothers, in disbelief, that he was indeed the author of the attack.

“Everything depends on the destiny of the lord (...). I am satisfied with what the lord has written for me,” he told him.

According to psychiatric experts, his discernment during the attack was neither abolished nor impaired.

“The big issue in this case is the following question: can we express ourselves on facts about which we have no memory?”, considers Me Bouzenoune who intends to put medical expertise into debate during the trial.

Caricatures of Mohammed 

For Me Samia Maktouf, lawyer for other civil parties, he adopted "a defense of rupture by feigning amnesia despite the evidence of his guilt". "

It's shocking but it's his choice. We will make do with it,” noted Me Soussi. “Very often, jihad is even in the box, for some it consists of stealing the trial from the civil parties after having stolen their lives.”

The mayor (Horizons) of Nice Christian Estrosi thanked Tuesday in a press release "the investigators for the thorough investigations" and "welcomed once again the action of our municipal police", expressing the city's support for the families of the victims who are "waiting this trial to have answers to the questions they ask themselves.

Originally from Sfax (Tunisia), Brahim Aouissaoui, an undeclared gasoline seller, left for the Italian island of Lampedusa on the night of September 19 to 20, 2020 aboard a boat, without warning his family. 

He then went to Sicily and arrived in Nice by train on the evening of October 27.

The investigations did not make it possible to “precisely identify the tipping point towards his homicidal determination”, notes the anti-terrorism prosecution.

Underlining his "religious commitment to Islam, recent but rigorous", the Pnat notes the "determination of the deadly design" of the assailant who "only went to France after having qualified this country as being that of disbelievers and dogs."

For the prosecution, this attack is part of "religious fanaticism and hateful intolerance consistent with the requirements of terrorist groups."

Brahim Aouissaoui consulted publications "related to terrorist groups and those carrying hatred of France" after the republication of caricatures of Mohammed on the occasion of the opening in September 2020 of the trial for the January 2015 attacks.

His attack was not claimed by jihadist groups, who nevertheless welcomed it.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Image credit: Shutterstock / godongphoto

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