Paris (AFP) – Seven suspected jihadists, including the brother of one of the suicide bombers in last November’s Paris attacks, went on trial in Paris on Monday.
The men, now aged between 24 and 27, travelled to Syria at the end of 2013 and returned to France a few months later. Arrested in May 2014, they all deny having fought as jihadists while there.
Among the defendants was Karim Mohamed-Aggad, the brother of Foued Mohamed-Aggad who took part in the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
Foued Mohamed-Aggad travelled with the same group to Syria but did not return home with them.
Nearly two years later he blew himself up at the Bataclan concert venue in Paris where 90 people were murdered.
Defence lawyer Xavier Nogueras stressed the difference between the Bataclan bomber and the defendants.
“They came back before the others,” he said. “They had completely broken with the idea of belonging to a radical ideology.”
The lawyer for Karim Mohamed-Aggad, Francoise Cotta, denounced the media obsession with her client.
“You couldn’t care less about the others and you are trying to stick it to Karim, who will be judged by what his brother did,” she told reporters outside the court.
According to one source close to the case, the defendants have told investigators they only carried out humanitarian work while they were in Syria.
While they occasionally handled weapons when the were in Syria, it was only for training or propaganda photos, never for combat.
All seven face charges of criminal association with a view to commit acts of terrorism, punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Last week, defence lawyers objected to the prosecutor’s decision to use leaked Islamic State documents — which list the defendants as “combatants”.
The documents, acquired by Sky News television in March, include an estimated 173 names of French citizens or residents of France, said a source close the investigation, but the defence says their authenticity must first be investigated.