French court issues verdicts on 2016 Nice terror attack suspects
Published: Dec 13, 2022 08:42 PM Updated: Dec 13, 2022 08:38 PM
Prison guards and employees block the entrance of the Toulouse-Seysses detention center during a strike against under-staffing in Seysses, southwestern France on September 7, 2022. Photo: VCG

Prison guards and employees block the entrance of the Toulouse-Seysses detention center. Photo: VCG

A French court issued verdicts on Tuesday for eight suspects charged in the harrowing 2016 terror attack in Nice, where an allegedly radicalized Islamist attacker is accused of plowing his truck into a crowd celebrating the July 14 national holiday.

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian resident, killed 86 people and injured over 450 after speeding onto a seaside embankment in the southern city, rampaging for four minutes before being shot dead by police.

Prosecutors are seeking 15-year prison terms against three suspects on charges of association with terrorists.

Ramzi Arefa, who has admitted to providing Lahouaiej-Bouhlel with a gun that he fired at police without hitting anyone, faces charges relating to supplying the weapon.

He is not thought to have been aware of the attacker's radicalization.

"I'm guilty of selling a weapon, without thinking about it, and since then it's been six years that I haven't stopped thinking about it," Arefa told the court in his closing statement Monday.

But two others, Mohamed Ghraieb and Chokri Chafroud, allegedly knew about the attacker's turn to Islamist radicalism and his potential to carry out a terror attack, based on records of phone calls and text messages among the three in the days ahead of the massacre.

Ghraieb, a 47-year-old from the same Tunisian town as Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, and Chafroud are also accused of helping him rent the delivery truck. They have denied the charges.

Five other suspects, a Tunisian and four Albanians, are charged with weapons trafficking and criminal conspiracy but without any terrorism link.

For many of the victims, the sentences sought by prosecutors fail to match the scope of the suffering.

"I hope the court will be more severe than they've asked - I cannot understand them after all that's been said in the hearings," said Anne Murris, president of the Memorial des Anges victims' association, who lost her daughter in the attack.