HEARING One of the three defendants prosecuted for terrorist criminal association, who faces a sentence of life imprisonment, explained this Wednesday to have known of the massacre only when he was taken into custody
The trial of the Nice attack opened on Monday, September 5. — Christophe Ena/AP/SIPA
- Accused of having provided a weapon to the perpetrator of the Nice attack, Ramzi Arefa assured this Wednesday before the special assize court of Paris did not see anything and did not try to find out about the July 14 massacre.
- “I saw people in a panic hiding under cars… But it was my brother's birthday, we tried to continue the evening. We were trying to make the most of it,” said the almost 28-year-old Franco-Tunisian.
On the evening of July 14, 2016, “I was on the Promenade but didn’t hear any gunshots, I thought I was on the Promenade. to firecrackers.” Accused of providing a weapon to the author of the Nice attack, Ramzi Arefa assured this Wednesday before the special Assize Court of Paris not having seen anything and not having looked for to learn about the massacre perpetrated; by a ram truck on the Promenade des Anglais. This Franco-Tunisian of almost 28 years is one of the three defendants prosecuted for association of terrorist criminals and the only one who incurs a prison sentence. perpetuity because in a state of recidivism.
“I saw people in panic hiding under cars… But it was my brother’s birthday, so we tried to continue the evening. We were trying to make the most of it,” the accused continued. provoking some reactions on the benches of the civil parties. “How can a Niçois say ça ?”, asks a lawyer, outraged.
At the beach, at; Juan-les-Pins, the next day
The accused who is at great risk has been trying since the start of the trial to show empathy with the victims. He recognized without difficulty; providing a gun to Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, author of the massacre which left 86 dead and more than 450 injured, but on the other hand categorically denies having knowledge of his murderous intentions.
Facing the potentially devastating effect of his client’s last statements, his lawyer tries to make him clarify his evening of July 14. Because of each other’s time in prison, “we had not been together for three years […] with my two brothers”, says Ramzi Arefa. “We were happy,” he adds, acknowledging that his speech “can hurt” the families of the victims.
Our file on the Nice attack
The day after July 14, still unaware of the massacre because he had “a phone without Internet”, he goes with his brothers and friends to a beach in Juan-les-Pins. It’s only a warning to view, from July 16, that he becomes aware of the attack and the name of its author. “Seeing the photo presented by the police, I recognized Momo,” the name by which he knew Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Faced with the investigators, his statements will often vary. “I was scared, I was in total panic,” he said. President Laurent Raviot interrupts him. “I don’t mind if we go crazy on guard duty. seen. Custody view, it”s made for ça”,” he tempers.
Another attack planned for August 15”?
But the court is not done with Ramzi Arefa and is also interested in the two text messages sent to him by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel a few minutes before the attack. “The gun you gave me” Yesterday is fine, so bring back five” charges, “it’s for Chokri [Chafroud, one of the other accused] and his friends” , indicates one of the messages. An almost identical voice note, sent a little earlier, specified “Chokri and his friends are ready for next month, now they are with Walid” ;name of Mohamed Ghraieb, the third judge for terrorist criminal association.
Was another attack planned for August 15? Why did the assailant leave? so many clues about an unlocked phone? “The only assumption is that he tried to to trap me. He looked for to train with him. I’ve tried to cheat him once [by offering him a dummy gun] and several times I spoke to him. coldly. Maybe I gave him the impression that I despised him,” said the accused.
“When I see the hatred this person had against humanity, it’s can “To be a bit logical,” he continues, without completely convincing. Another question torments the court. What was the Kalashnikov found in his basement supposed to be for? Was it one of the five weapons that were to be used for the August 15 action mentioned by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel? “It was a completely rusty weapon, a wreck,” defends Ramzi Arefa, implicating the Albanian Artan Henaj, another accused. at the trial, who would have entrusted him, without his request, with this “kalach unsale”. Artan Henaj, in custody in connection with another case, is to be heard by the court at from Thursday.