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article imageTerror charge dropped against man on trial over Paris attacks

By AFP     Feb 6, 2018 in World

Prosecutors sought a four-year jail term on Tuesday for a man who hired out his apartment to two Islamic State jihadists after the 2015 Paris attacks, but they said there was insufficient evidence to convict him on terror charges.

Jawad Bendaoud, who was nicknamed the "Daesh (Islamic State) landlord" in the French media, has been on trial since January 24 accused of harbouring the ringleader of the team of gunmen who killed 130 people in the French capital in November 2015.

Bendaoud, a drug dealer, rented out one of his grimy apartments north of Paris to top Islamic State (IS) extremist Abdelhamid Abaaoud and an accomplice, Chakib Akrouh.

The two men hid there and plotted more bloodshed in the days after the atrocity.

Prosecutors initially claimed that Bendaoud knew he was helping to hide terrorists, but the 31-year-old denied it throughout, saying he was simply making money and was a cocaine-sniffing womaniser, not a religious fundamentalist.

He is on trial along with another known criminal, Mohamed Soumah, who helped arrange the apartment but has also claimed he knew nothing about the real identities or motives of the lodgers.

"Neither Soumah nor Jawad Bendaoud could not have ignored the fact that they were helping out criminals who were on the run," the state prosecutor said in his concluding remarks on Tuesday.

But "there is insufficient evidence that they knew that the fugitives had taken part in the attacks."

He called for sentences of four years for criminal conspiracy, less than the maximum six years they faced for criminal and terrorist conspiracy.

But he called for a third man on trial, Youssef Ait Boulahcen, to face the maximum five-year prison term for failing to alert authorities about a terror plot.

Ait Boulahcen is the brother of a woman killed along with the IS attackers by police when they raided the apartment at dawn on November 18.

He is "someone who believed completely in the ideology of Islamic State", the prosecutor said.

Defence lawyers are expected to make their final statements before the judge retires to consider a verdict.

A second trial linked to the Paris attacks began in Brussels on Monday when the only surviving member of the jihadist team, Salah Abdeslam, appeared before judges accused of shooting at police while on the run in Belgium.

Nine suicide bombers and gunmen carried out simultaneous attacks on the national stadium in Paris, as well as on bars and restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall.

Abdeslam was equipped with a suicide belt but discarded it and went on the run.

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