With some defendants, you have to make up your mind and tell yourself that their interrogation will not contribute to approaching the truth. This was the case, this Tuesday, January 25, with the hearing of Muhammed Usman, a 28-year-old Pakistani. Most often, the accused does not remember what he did in Syria, Iraq or during his trip to France. Nor of the men he has met. And when he remembers, his words often do not correspond to what he declared to the judges or the investigators during the investigation… On the benches of the courtroom, the faces hesitate between laughter and consternation.
Jihadist from a young age?
Mohammed Usman was to be part of the commandos who committed the attacks of November 13, 2015, in Saint-Denis and Paris. But during his journey – from Syria to Europe – with two of the Stade de France terrorists (Mohamad Almahmod and Ahmad al Mohammad) and Adel Haddadi, another of the defendants in the trial, he was arrested at the Greek border, his fake Syrian passport having been spotted. However, after a month in a prison on the spot with Haddadi – the two Iraqi terrorists were not spotted -, Usman and Haddadi had resumed their journey through Europe before being arrested on December 10, 2015, in a migrant camp in Salzburg (Austria).
For the rest, many questions remain around Mohammed Usman. Was he part of a jihadist group in Pakistan during his adolescence, as the authorities of his country claim?
No, I’ve never been in this group, he assures. Still according to the Pakistani authorities,
you would have left your village at the age of 10 or 11 and would not have returned until 2014 to collect passports, insists the president of the assize court, Jean-Louis Périès. No, he argues. He just learned the Koran in a madrasa.
He claims not to have fought
His radicalization is equally obscure. To listen to it, it would have arisen through discussions on the internet with an individual.
He told me that every Muslim must come here, in the shâm. And then he sent me a video showing how Muslims lived there. The latter showed homosexual people whom the jihadists climbed to the sixth floor of a building and threw into the void, thieves whose hands they cut off…
And that didn’t shock you?, asks the president.
No, not at the time.
His stay in Syria and Iraq, in the ranks of the Islamic State group, from the spring or summer of 2015, is even less clear. After spending two or three days in Raqqua, he is sent to Fallujah, Iraq, where he will stay a priori nearly a month. What happened? Did he fight?
I did nothing there. I stayed at home. I was just going to the mosque, he assures. In the voice of the president of the assize court, we feel a certain annoyance:
In 2015, Daesh needs fighters. And you, you are brought from Pakistan just to read the Koran… I don’t quite understand. And Jean-Louis Périès read his statements to him before the examining magistrate: he had admitted having fought in Fallujah.
It’s wrong !, repeats the accused who sometimes speaks French, sometimes with the help of an interpreter.
A video, from the American services, would show it however during the victory of his troops during the battle of Al-Anbar (in Fallujah in Iraq), in the spring of 2015. But his lawyers having disputed, at the start of the hearing, that this video be included in the trial file (which the court rejected ), Mohammed Usman refuses to answer the question: is it really him in this video made by Daesh?
“It shocked me, really”
Back in Raqqa, a member of the Islamic State, whom he says he does not recognize, would have sent him to go to France. In front of the judge, he indicated that it was a question of becoming a martyr. But this Tuesday, before the Assize Court, he rather evokes
violent action to avenge the children and women allegedly killed by the French bombardments in Syria. What violent action? He does not know.
How can you say you had no idea what was going to happen when you traveled with two of the Stade de France terrorists and Adel Haddadi admitted it was a suicidal act?, insists the president of the court.
I didn’t know it was such a big attack., repeats the accused who, under the fire of questions, ends up admitting to having followed a two-day training in the handling of a Kalashnikov, in Raqqa.
A big attack?
Up to what number of deaths could you have participated?, replies Jean-Louis Périès.
I didn’t know how I was going to have to attack. How was it going to be, repeats Muhammad Usman.
Today, the accused assures that he has changed. In Syria,
I did everything they told me. And when Me Costes, lawyer for civil parties, asks him if he condemns the attacks and the Islamic State, he answers:
It shocked me, really. It is a disaster for the Muslim religion. But the Advocate General doubts it. The magistrate read a report from the prison administration which transcribed remarks by Mohammed Usman to Mohamed Abrini, during a transfer to prison:
My lawyer wants me to express regret in court. Me, I don’t want to. I don’t regret what I did. What does he say? Nothing. The accused refuses to answer.