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Verdict due in French helicopter jailbreak trial

The verdict is expected in the trial of French armed robber Redoine Faid, who escaped from prison in a helicopter in 2018
The verdict is expected in the trial of French armed robber Redoine Faid, who escaped from prison in a helicopter in 2018 - Copyright AFP WANG Zhao
The verdict is expected in the trial of French armed robber Redoine Faid, who escaped from prison in a helicopter in 2018 - Copyright AFP WANG Zhao

French judges were expected on Wednesday to deliver their verdict in the trial of a notorious armed criminal who escaped prison in a hijacked helicopter in a Hollywood-style getaway that stunned the country.

Redoine Faid, a career criminal with multiple convictions for armed robbery, was sprung from the jail in Reau, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Paris, in 2018. The 51-year-old, who was arrested after three months on the run, went on trial last month. He was expected to be sentenced after 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Wednesday.

Eleven suspected accomplices, including five of Faid’s family members, are also in the dock. 

Prosecutors called for a 22-year sentence for Faid, dubbed “the getaway king”, who chose to remain silent during the investigation to protest conditions in the prison.

But the shaven-headed gangster, who says he was inspired by movie baddies such as Tony Montana in “Scarface”, put on a show during the high-security trial.

Faid, who had escaped from prison once before for six weeks in 2013, joked about his propensity for getaways.

“I took my sneakers, you never know,” he quipped.

He said his plan to escape was built around an “irrational flaw” — the absence of anti-helicopter nets in his prison.

On July 1, 2018, two men posing as flying school students forced a helicopter instructor at gunpoint to fly them to the jail.

Faid’s accomplices used smoke bombs and angle grinders to break through doors and whisk him to the waiting chopper to the applause of other inmates.

At the trial, he waxed lyrical as he recounted the escape, speaking of a “ray of sunshine” on his face, the “feeling of freedom” and “the closed door which opens to infinity”. 

Prosecutors described Faid as a “crook” who sought to win over people with his “humour”, warning jury members not to be “fooled” by him.

Faid had been serving a 25-year term over a botched 2010 heist in which a policewoman was killed, although he claims her death was accidental.

AFP
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