A marathon trial of suspects in the November 2015 Paris attack resumed Thursday after a negative COVID-19 test allowed the main suspect to attend.
Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor of the 10 assailants, had not appeared in court since November 25 and tested positive at the end of December.
He is set to take the stand for questioning next Thursday and Friday, an event long awaited by families of the 130 people killed on November 13, 2015.
In the meantime, there was a tense standoff between the presiding judge and another defendant.
Osama Krayem, 29, a Swedish national, informed the court through his lawyer that he would remain silent “until the end of proceedings” and refused to even attend the trial, calling it “an illusion.”
Judge vows force
But when it was Krayem’s turn on Thursday to be questioned about his role in the series of jihadi attacks on bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and the national stadium, chief judge Jean-Louis Peries said that he would be made to show up.
“I will have no option but to use force to make him appear on the stand,” he said.
That turned out to be unnecessary, as Krayem made his way to the bench uncoerced, and sat down next to Abdeslam.
“It’s good of you to come willingly,” the judge commented.
Abdeslam, a dual French Moroccan national, was captured in Brussels after discarding his suicide vest and fleeing the French capital in the chaotic aftermath of the bloodshed.
The attack on the Bataclan, where 90 people mostly in their 20s and 30s were massacred as they watched a rock concert, represented the most traumatic of a string of separate attacks claimed by the Islamic State group over several years.
Abdeslam’s co-defendants are answering charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks, as well as supplying weapons.
Krayem, whom Belgian investigators identified as one of the killers of a Jordanian pilot burned alive by IS in early 2015 in Syria, is also under investigation in Sweden for war crimes.
After four months of proceedings, the trial has now entered a new phase in which the 14 suspects present are to be questioned. Six others are being tried in absentia, although five of them are believed to be dead, mostly in airstrikes in Syria.
The 2015 attacks began when the first attackers detonated suicide belts outside the national stadium where France was playing a football match against Germany.
A group of gunmen later opened fire from a car on half a dozen restaurants, and Abdeslam’s brother Brahim blew himself up in a bar.
The trial, the biggest in modern French history, is to last until May.