Trial begins of alleged accomplice in 2016 double police murder

France REUTERSKamil Zihnioglu
SEP 25, 2023 LISTEN
REUTERS/Kamil Zihnioglu

The trial of Mohamed Lamine Aberouz, for his role in the murder of a police couple in their home northwest of Paris in June 2016, gets underway this Monday at a special court in the French capital.

30-year-old Mohamed Lamine Aberouz is charged with "complicity in the murder of a public official", "criminal terrorist association" and "complicity in kidnapping" in connection with a terrorist enterprise.

He faces life imprisonment if found guilty.
Aberouz was indicted on 11 December, 2017 and has been held in solitary confinement ever since.

He insists he is innocent, having gone to a prayer hall on the evening of the attack.

The stabbing death of Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, a deputy police station commander and his companion Jessica Schneider, an administrative officer at the Mantes-la-Jolie police station, deeply shocked the police force across France.

Their murders marked the first time in French history that police officers were killed while off-duty, in their own homes.

The killer of the two police officers, Larossi Abballa was killed during the police assault to free the couple's three-year-old child he was holding hostage.

Prosecution seeks to prove complicity

The key question of the trial that opens today is whether Abballa acted alone – the prosecution is convinced that he had an accomplice inside the house.

Prosecutors maintain it was Aberouz who indicated to Larossi Abballa that the police couple should be targeted for the attack.

The prosecution case states Aberouz "went with [Larossi Abballa] to the victims' home on the evening of the events, logging on to the victims' computer to view photographs of Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, thus enabling Larossi Abballa to immediately identify him and carry out the act against him before he even had time to return to his home."

Traces of Aberouz's DNA – found on the wrist rest of the couple's computer – are being used to prove his complicity in the murder of the two policemen.

However, apart from the DNA traces, no other tangible evidence of his presence at the scene has been established.

The defendant's lawyers intend to plead for his acquittal, as they believe Larossi Abballa was a so-called "lone wolf" who did not need an accomplice.

The lawyers also point to a failure on the part of the State to monitor Larossi Abballa, who was included in a special anti-terrorist police file and had been previously convicted  of "criminal association with a view to preparing terrorist acts" in 2013.

Shared, extremist ideology

Investigators believe Aberouz was able to escape from the victims' house "before the police intervened," citing the "configuration of the premises".

"Mohamed Lamine Aberouz's denials that he adhered to jihadist ideology ... do not appear convincing or sufficient in the light of the elements gathered elsewhere," the investigators have added, pointing out that Aberouz and Abballa "were driven by the same ideology in favor of armed jihad".

Meanwhile, the investigation also revealed that Larossi Abballa had put Mohamed Lamine Aberouz in contact with a young woman, Sarah Hervouët, who is currently in serving a 20 year prison sentence for stabbing a plainclothes police officer following an attempted gas cylinder attack near Notre-Dame cathedral in September 2016.

She is also due to be heard by the court this Monday.

In this case, Aberouz was sentenced on appeal in June 2021 to five years' imprisonment for failing to report a terrorist crime.

Today's first day of hearings will also be devoted to examining the personality of the accused, the context, the presentation of the facts and the investigation.

Hearings are due to take place every day of the week from 9am, with a verdict expected by 10 October.