A primary suspect in the trial over the 2015 massacres at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere in Paris has today denied any responsibility for the attacks carried out by jihadists, one of whom was a close associate.
Ali Riza Polat, a 35-year-old Franco-Turkish man, was jailed a few weeks after the terror attack that stunned France, with investigators saying he tried to flee the country several times heading for Syria.
For his defence, Polat has chosen Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, the lawyer who defended the convicted international terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as ‘Carlos the Jackal.’
She later became his companion and married him in a religious ceremony in prison, though the union has no legal validity.
This court sketch made today at the Paris courthouse shows the fourteen accused and their lawyers at the opening of the trial of the accomplices in Charlie Hebdo jihadist killings in 2015
For his defence, Polat has chosen Isabelle Coutant-Peyre (pictured), the lawyer who defended the convicted international terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez
‘I am innocent!’ Polat told the court, his head shaved and his face hidden behind a cloth mask.
‘I’m here because certain people, lying squealers, said all sorts of nonsense… but they’re lying,’ he said.
Born in Istanbul, Polat moved to France when he was three and said he fell into petty crime when he was 13 or 14, later starting to deal drugs.
He grew up in the same rough Paris suburb of Grigny as Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a police officer on January 8, 2015 and four people at the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket the next day before being killed by police.
Those attacks came just after two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices, killing 12.
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, lawyer for one of the defendant Ali Riza Polat, leaves the courtroom during a break on the opening day of the trial on Wednesday. Her client, a 35-year-old Franco-Turkish man, was jailed a few weeks after the terror attack that stunned France
Suspected of helping provide the weapons for all three gunmen, Polat is facing the most serious charge among the 14 accused: complicity in a terrorist act, which carries a potential life sentence.
But Polat, who says he converted to Islam in 2014, insisted he had no role in the attacks.
‘I have nothing to do with them. You cannot kill the innocent… I am not violent,’ he said.
The trial of Polat and thirteen other suspects accused of aiding the three gunmen opened Wednesday, and is set to run until November.
Charlie Hebdo marked the occasion by reprinting the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that had angered Muslims around the world, a move that drew praise from free-speech advocates but anger from many Muslim leaders.
Supporters of hardline Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan carry placards and shout slogans during a protest against the reprinting cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Rawalpindi on Friday
On Friday, the paper said its Wednesday edition sold out the first day, prompting it to print 200,000 more copies that will hit newsstands in the coming days.
Lawyer Coutant-Peyre has previously represented Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill American citizens as part of the September 11 attacks.
She represented Moussaoui early on during his imprisonment. He is currently serving six life sentences without parole at the Federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
Also among her clients is French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who preyed on Western tourists in Southeast Asia in the 1970s, and Roger Garaudy, a French philosopher and resistance fighter who was convicted and fined for Holocaust denial in 1998.
Carlos the Jackal
Venezuelan extremist Carlos the Jackal was responsible for a series of atrocities across France in the 1970s and 80s
Arguably the most notorious international terrorist of his generation, Venezuelan extremist Carlos the Jackal was responsible for a series of atrocities across France in the 1970s and 80s, slaughtering victims including police officers.
Carlos, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was the world’s most wanted fugitive during this period and has been in prison in France since his arrest in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 1994 by French elite police.
Carlos was convicted in 1997 of murdering two French police officers and an informant in 1975 in Paris and in 2011 of masterminding attacks on two trains, a train station and a Paris street that killed 11 people and wounded about 150 more.
He sealed his notoriety in 1975 with the hostage-taking of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in the name of the Palestinian struggle, and went on to become an international gun-for-hire with Soviet bloc protectors.
In the 1970s and ’80s, the Marxist militant and self-dubbed ‘elite gunman’ became a symbol of Cold War anti-imperialism and public enemy number one for Western governments.
Carlos was finally arrested in Sudan by the French intelligence services in 1994, 20 years after his first mission on French soil.