Jail sentence required against French-Syrian imam Ayachi

French-Syrian Imam Bassam Ayachi.

The trial of the famous French-Syrian imam Bassam Ayachi ended Friday, April 8 in Paris with a charge in which the representative of the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT) demanded a prison term of five years, three of which had been suspended. A sentence that, given his pre-trial detention, does not include a return to prison for the 75-year-old man today.

Four days of hearing weren’t enough to get a definitive picture of this character with a thousand and one lives, “untouchable” in the words of the prosecutor. Dressed in a trellis jacket, the long white-bearded monk lost his right arm in Syria in an attack by the Islamic State Organization (IS). Imam Ayachi, both an informant for the French and Belgian intelligence services and a warlord, stayed in his native Syria from 2013 to 2018.

The French justice accuses him of having participated in a “terrorist association of criminals” during this period. He told him he was there to free his country from the dictatorship of the Assad regime, but also to protect France and Belgium, his two adopted countries, from the threat of extremists who had come to fight there. While it is clear that he maintained regular and in-depth contact with the intelligence services, as evidenced by excerpts from exchanges by e-mail, telephone and messaging, we do not know all the ins and outs of this cooperation because the intelligence services’ refusal to act on behalf of the to communicate defense secret documents. This obstacle was the subject of a priority question of constitutionality (QPC), which was deemed admissible by the court on the first day of the trial, Tuesday, April 5.

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‘No fair trial’

Mr Ayachi’s cooperation with the French services is also apparent from appointments at the French consulate in Istanbul, meetings in Beirut with a certain “Mme Marie” and lists of payments from men employed by the sheikh. However, the services went so far as to disguise Mr Ayachi’s appointment as an accidental arrest, leading to his arrest in France in March 2018. Likewise, his phones were apparently “cleaned” before being handed over to judicial authorities. The order for reference refers to: “handling”“You are being asked to make a decision based on elements of which you are not aware”protested Mand Joris Monin de Flaugergues, Mr Ayachi’s lawyer. ‘It’s not a fair trial we’re doing here! † he added.

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