A man dubbed the ‘Daesh landlord’ has gone on trial accused of hiding two jihadists behind the deadly 2015 Paris terror attack.
Jawad Bendaoud lent an apartment to the suspected ringleader and an accomplice behind the co-ordinated assaults that left 130 people dead in November 2015.
The 31-year-old landlord, who is charged with harbouring Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh, hit the headlines after he gave a television interview as police raided the hideout, in which he claimed: “I didn’t know they were terrorists.”
He faces up to six years in prison if convicted.
Islamic State, also known as Daesh, claimed responsibility for the attacks on the night of 13 November 2015 as gunmen and suicide bombers targeted restaurants and bars in the French capital, the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France.
It was France’s deadliest extremist violence since the Second World War.
Belgian national Abaaoud was killed in the police raid on the flat, while his accomplice Akrouh blew himself up.
Bendaoud is on trial alongside his friend Mohamed Soumah and Youssef Aitboulahcen, the brother of a woman who was also killed in the raid.
Bendaoud was nicknamed the “Daesh landlord” by French media following his TV interview, while his own lawyer Xavier Nogueras described him as “the one we laughed about, having cried so much” after the attacks.
He was previously sentenced to eight years in jail for killing a man in a fight over a mobile phone before he was released in 2013.
Hundreds of people injured in the 2015 Paris attacks and relatives of those killed have joined the legal action as civil parties in the case, or applied to be registered as plaintiffs.
But prosecutor Nicolas Le Bris rejected requests by the civil parties to characterise Bendaoud and Soumah as terrorists.
He told the court: “Are they terrorists? For the prosecutors’ office, the response is no.”
Bilal Mokono, who was seriously injured by a suicide bomber outside the Stade de France, attended court in Paris on the first day of Bendaoud’s trial.
“I don’t want to miss one second of these trials because I want to understand the story,” he said.
“It is important for me to be here for my son, but also for the victims who don’t have the strength or don’t have the will to be here but who are still expecting answers.”
There were fears Bendaoud would be unable to attend the trial after guards protesting over prison working conditions blocked the entrance of the Fresnes prison, south of Paris.
Police later managed to clear the main entry point to the prison, allowing the trial to get under way.
Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor among the 10 gunmen who carried out the killing spree, is due to appear in court in Belgium next month.