Key suspect cleared in first trial linked to Paris attacks

Key suspect cleared in first trial linked to Paris attacks

Paris (AFP) – A man who rented his flat to Islamic State jihadists was found not guilty Wednesday in the first trial stemming from the 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead.

Prosecutors had been seeking a four-year jail term for Jawad Bendaoud, though more serious terrorism charges had been dropped after they said there was insufficient evidence that he knew the men were terrorists.

Bendaoud, a 31-year-old convicted drug dealer from the Paris suburbs, raised his arms in triumph and patted the police officers guarding him on the shoulder as judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez handed down the verdict.

The court has been packed for the trial, which started days before a separate case in Belgium involving Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the only surviving attacker from the Paris atrocities.

French media nicknamed Bendaoud the “Daesh landlord”, using another name for IS, after it emerged the attackers’ ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud had holed up for days afterwards in the apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

In a rare moment of humour after France’s worst attacks since World War II, Bendaoud became a national laughing stock when he gave a TV interview insisting nothing about the men had seemed suspicious.

Abaaoud and an accomplice, Chakib Akrouh, hid out and plotted a fresh attack before they were killed in a dramatic police raid at the apartment on November 18, 2015, five days after the Paris carnage.

Bendaoud has been on trial since January 24 along with another known criminal, Mohamed Soumah, who helped arrange the apartment but also claimed he did not know the men were terror suspects.