Four far-right suspects accused of planning attacks on mosques and Jewish targets went on trial in Paris on Monday, a judge surprised the courts by ordering public hearings.
When police arrested suspects in 2018 and 2019, one of the accused was a teenager, and all four men may have been tried behind closed doors under French law.
But presiding judge Christophe Petiteau said that given the seriousness of the allegations, “the court considers it important that the restriction be lifted”.
France has uncovered a number of violent plots by far-right extremists in recent years, including an alleged plot to assassinate President Emmanuel Macron in 2018.
“We’re talking about a new and growing threat – the spread of English-speaking-inspired mass killings into our territory,” said Olivier Dabin, a lawyer for the prosecution.
The four men, now aged between 22 and 28, joined a private Internet chat group called “Operation WaffenKraft,” where discussions “quickly turned to preparations for terrorist projects,” prosecutors said. .
Waffen-SS was the military branch of the elite Nazi SS, founded by Adolf Hitler.
The chat group discussed targets, including mosques as well as the headquarters of the Jewish Committee (CRIF) and the League for Anti-Semitic Discrimination (LICRA) offices.
The group is said to be led by Alexandre Guilet, who was then a volunteer deputy police officer in the southeastern department of Isère.
Weapons and Target Practice
Gillette was arrested after police learned he had ordered equipment that could be used to make explosives.
At his home, investigators found “regularly used” weapons, including two Kalashnikov assault rifles and laboratory equipment.
“I think he wanted to do worse than Bataclan,” one of the suspects later said of Gilet.
He was referring to the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, dozens of them at the Bataclan concert venue.
In July 2018, police located four other people taking part in target practice in a remote forest after discovering training videos and photos.
Among them was a 14-year-old who had already been sentenced to two years in juvenile court with a suspended sentence.
Lawyers for the other four criticized the decision to hold a public trial.
Gilet’s attorney, Fanny Vial, said the closed-door hearing “could have given these young men, who are struggling to tell the story of their lives, a better account of themselves.”
The trial will run until June 30.