A week after the opening of the historic trial of the Paris attacks, #Investigation invites you to meet one of the key men. Stanislas Eskenazi, the lawyer for “the man in the hat”, agreed to come out of the shadows and talk about the case for the first time. Our teams were able to follow him in his preparation before D-Day and during the first days of the trial.
His client, Mohamed Abrini, risks life imprisonment. He fears that he will be condemned in advance: “I am convinced he will be a scapegoat because the living will pay for the dead”. Of the Paris bombings commandos, only Salah Abdeslam is still alive. Osama Atar, the alleged sponsor is declared dead in Syria and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the chief coordinator was killed, during a raid, a few days after the attacks in Paris.
A battle lost in advance
At the historic palace located on the Île de la Cité in Paris, the forty-something goes into the judicial ring to defend the case of his life. Amateur boxer, for him, every trial is a fight:
My opponents are not the victims, I respect them more than anything. They will dictate my behavior throughout the trial. My opponent is the floor.
Along with Salah Abdeslam, the sole survivor of the Paris attacks, his client is the other central figure in the trial. Mohamed Abrini has been nicknamed the man with the hat since the attacks in Brussels. On March 22, 2016, it was he who abandoned his explosives cart at Brussels airport and fled. The day before the Paris attacks, on November 12, 2015, he was with the commandos which left 130 dead and 350 wounded. 6 years after the night of horror, the Paris trial will determine the responsibility of the Belgian-Moroccan, now 36 years old. Stanislas Eskenazi has been fighting for him for 5 years.
Abrini, a fluke
The date of April 8, 2016, the lawyer will never forget. He is on call “Salduz” when called to assist in the interrogation of a man who has just been arrested. The surprise is great when he discovers who he is dealing with: after 4 months on the run, one of the 2 most wanted fugitives with Salah Abdeslam, has just been arrested in Anderlecht. It’s Mohamed Abrini. The lawyer is impressed when he is in front of him, in the basement of the police station on rue Royale in Brussels, surrounded by around 50 over-armed police.
Mohamed Abrini mandates him. After seeking advice from one of his mentors, the lawyer accepts and not just out of duty. “I don’t like pulling horses on the ground. I had the strange feeling that all the dice were going to be loaded in advance and I thought I could take another look at what happened. “
An atypical lawyer
“Stan”, as his relatives call him, has an atypical background. He graduated as a lawyer at the age of 27, attending evening classes. He specializes in tax and commercial law. Before becoming a lawyer, he was a waiter, security guard and also a programmer in Morocco.
In his youth, he frequented the Brussels neighborhoods, in particular those of Molenbeek, where his client Mohamed Abrini grew up: “A person who grew up in the 18th arrondissement in Paris or who grew up in Molenbeek… does not have the same cultural codes, does not have the same way of speaking and therefore I think I have my contribution to the edifice of the trial“. The lawyer fight will be long. After a 9-month marathon trial in Paris, he will follow the trial of the Brussels attacks.