The Algerian, Saber Al-Ahmar, presented himself, on Tuesday, as the ideal offender at the opening of his trial in Paris on charges of jihadist propaganda and incitement to jihad, which he denies.
Eight years of detention and torture at Guantanamo and then an influential imam in France: Algerian Saber Al-Ahmar presented himself on Tuesday as the perfect perpetrator when the opening of his trial in Paris on charges of jihadist propaganda and incitement to jihad, which he opposes. He appears before the Sixteenth Chamber of the Paris Criminal Court on charges of criminal grouping of terrorist criminals with another defendant, Muhammad H. whom the courts considered “second”.
In the box, Mr. Lahmar, who wears a black tracksuit, glasses, bald head, and short hair, answered questions about his winding journey, which, according to the prosecution, embraces thirty years of globalized jihad. Al-Jazairi recalled his birth in May 1969 and his theological studies, first in Constantine, where he was suspected of belonging to the Islamic Army (GIA); In Medina, Saudi Arabia then, according to him, “for the purpose of studying Islam only.”
In Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1996 and 2001, he subsequently appeared in a large mosque in Sarajevo, considered a gathering place for Islamists. The Bosnians handed him over to the Americans in early 2002, along with five other Algerians, on suspicion of planning an attack on the United States Embassy. He was transferred to the notorious military prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba.
“I know why I’m here.”
In court, Mr. Lahmar detailed the torture he had been subjected to until 2008: “They used gas on me, dogs, and water to suffocate.” Al-Jazaery says that he was regularly “constrained to a chair for 18 hours” or even rotated over two years “a cell without light” and then “another (…) with light 24 hours a day”. Finally acquitted by American justice, France welcomed him on December 1, 2009 and settled in the Bordeaux region, looking forward, he said, to “live in peace, freedom and security.”
But after arriving in France, it is suspected that Mr. Lahmar used his religious knowledge to become a famous “sheikh” in the Bordeaux region, and above all spread jihadist propaganda in two places of prayer. He is also accused of inciting several jihad aspirants, one man and a couple with four children, to leave for Iraq or Syria in the summer of 2015.
Deliberately prolific in Arabic, the defendant took the opportunity of his first speech to immediately dismiss the charges and present himself as the victim of his career. “I am aware of the reason for my being here; he indicated that he is not Salim Ma’asho or Uthman Khalaf” who are there.
These two men were the starting points for the investigation that targeted him: Salim Masho, the first person who left with a wife and children and was sentenced to death in 2019 by the Iraqi judiciary for belonging to the Islamic State. Osman Ikhlef, who has been considered “immediately dead” since the end of 2015. “My religion led me here,” decided the person his peers call “the sheikh.”
“I’m not responsible for anyone, just me”
Saber Lahmar spoke on a rare occasion in French and recalled this exceptional element in his profile, so he explained to the prosecution: “I made Guantanamo.” Then he returns to Arabic: “For justice,” which is looking for those responsible for these departures from the Levant, “It is convincing. But I don’t think we can play with justice in this sense.”
“Today I am under arrest because I knew someone who went to Syria,” Salim Mashou. “But he can go wherever he wants, on the moon or underground, that’s not my problem, I’m not responsible for anyone, just me,” the defendant pleaded again, ruling out “it’s so-and-so’s evidence.”
Today, Wednesday, the court begins examining the substance of the suspicions attached to him: in addition to these suspicions of incitement to leave to the region, he is suspected of making “extremely violent statements” during sermons “attacking Jews and calling for the killing of apostates and martyrdom”, which was to be held in a mosque but Also in a secret prayer room in the Gironde.
He is also accused of having links with many jihadist figures in France. The trial continues until Friday.