Sept. 8 (UPI) — Twenty people linked to coordinated terrorist attacks in France six years ago that killed 130 people at multiple locations went on trial in Paris on Wednesday.
Most of the defendants and their attorneys gathered at the 13th century courthouse for the initial day of the proceedings. Six will be tried in absentia.
The men are being tried for the attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, which occurred simultaneously at the Stade de France national stadium, Bataclan music hall and restaurants in central Paris. More than 300 people were injured. It is France’s deadliest terrorist attack.
French prosecutors say the men on trial took part in the planning and coordination of the attacks. As many as 1,800 victims and witnesses are expected to testify.
“It is enormous and historic,” retired Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere told NPR. “After nearly six years of investigation, this will be a trial for history.”
Salah Abdeslam, 31, the lone surviving member of the 10 attackers, fled to Brussels after refusing to blow himself up with a suicide vest. Belgian authorities arrested him there months later.
Five suspects who are believed to be dead are being tried in absentia, and another is being held prisoner in Turkey. The others are being charged with helping plan the attacks.
Former victims advocacy group worker Stephane Lacombe said France needs reassurances about how the country will handle terrorism moving forward.
“The victims need to feel that a democratic state not only supports them but also that it’s using all its skills, resources, time, money, judges, to do what it can in order to get some answers,” Lacombe told NPR.