Paris attacks: 'Naive host' of terrorists on trial

French police standing guard as a van carrying Bendaoud arrives at a courthouse in Paris yesterday.
French police standing guard as a van carrying Bendaoud arrives at a courthouse in Paris yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Jawad Bendaoud is accused of lending his apartment to two ISIS militants.
Jawad Bendaoud is accused of lending his apartment to two ISIS militants.

PARIS • The first trial stemming from the November 2015 Paris terror attacks opened yesterday when Jawad Bendaoud appeared in court, charged with harbouring two of the militants in the aftermath of the carnage.

Bendaoud, 31, became a national laughing stock after a TV interview in which he came across as clueless, insisting that he "didn't know they were terrorists".

It provided a rare reason to laugh after the deadliest attacks in France since World War II, spawning endless parodies on the Internet mocking his apparent naivety.

Bendaoud stands accused of lending his apartment to Abdelhamid Abaaoud - a senior militant with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group suspected of coordinating the attacks that killed 130 people - and accomplice Chakib Akrouh.

The trial comes ahead of that of the only survivor among the 10 men who carried out the killing spree, Salah Abdeslam, who is due to appear in court in Belgium early next month.

The court will seek to determine whether Bendaoud actively conspired in helping the pair to hide out or whether he got caught up in events unknowingly.

Anti-terrorist police killed Abaaoud, Akrouh, and Abaaoud's cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen in a ferocious assault on the apartment on Nov 18, five days after the attacks.

Bendaoud gave his now infamous interview to BFM television just as armed officers were surrounding the apartment in the gritty Saint-Denis suburb north of Paris.

"Someone asked me for a favour, I helped them out," he said, adding that all he knew was that they were from Belgium and wanted access to water and a place to pray.

"If I had known, do you really think I would have hosted them?"

The clip became a viral sensation, with Internet users mocking his apparent lack of curiosity about his guests, at a time when a huge manhunt had been launched for the militants.

Ten heavily armed militants attacked the national stadium, bars and restaurants in Paris, as well as the Bataclan concert venue, on the night of Nov 13 in attacks claimed by ISIS.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Paris attacks: 'Naive host' of terrorists on trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe