Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to be only surviving member of the group that carried out a series of deadly gun-and-bomb attacks across Paris in November 2015, was found guilty on Wednesday and handed France’s harshest sentence – life without the possibility of parole.
The attacks, which ISIS claimed responsibility for, left 130 people dead and 494 wounded across the French capital – in bars, restaurants, at a concert hall and outside the famed Stade de France, where a soccer match was taking place.
Abdeslam, 32, was found guilty of all five counts he was charged with. He is just the fifth person in France sentenced to life without parole since it was legalized in 1994.
Though Abdeslam was one of 20 people on trial, he was the sole defendant accused of physically carrying out the deadliest attacks that France has ever seen in peacetime.
The other suspects were charged with lesser crimes, such as helping to provide the attackers with weapons or cars. Six were tried in absentia.
Of the accused, 19 were found guilty on all counts, while one – Farid Kharkhach – was convicted of a lesser charge than he initially faced. Apart from Abdeslam, the other 13 defendants in the courtroom received prison terms ranging from two years to 30 years for their crimes.
Abdeslam didn’t appear to react to his sentence. Kharkhach, who received the lightest sentence, cried after hearing his verdict.
The verdicts are a culmination of a lengthy trial which began on September 8, 2021 and involved more than 330 lawyers and approximately 1,800 civil parties, according to the French Justice Ministry. The proceedings took place in a purpose-built courtroom inside the the Palais de Justice in central Paris.
The trial heard testimony from first responders who described the horrors they witnessed at the Bataclan concert hall and at bars and restaurants across the city. Survivors spoke of their desperation as they tried to hide from the terrorists, and family members of those killed recalled how their anxiety turned to sorrow as they learned of the death of their loved ones.
Abdeslam, who was arrested in 2016, spoke publicly for the first time early in the trial, defiantly declaring himself “an Islamic State soldier,” upsetting some survivors who took his words as a threat.
Abdeslam later apologized to the victims and claimed to have killed no one.
He says he chose not to detonate his explosive vest, and on the final day of hearings in the case urged the court not to give him a harsh sentence: “I made mistakes, it’s true, but I’m not a murderer, I’m not a killer,” he said.
Many of the survivors and the families of those who died are hoping to move on with their lives following the lengthy court case.
Life for Paris, the main organization for survivors and victims’ families announced on Tuesday that the organization will begin to wind down, eventually closing on November 13, 2025, the ten-year anniversary of the attacks.
“(The dissolution) is also for us to return to a certain form of normalcy, at our own free will, far from public attention,” the group said in a statement.
This story has been updated.