An Islamist terrorist who attacked three French soldiers standing guard outside a Jewish community center in the southern city of Nice in 2015 is one step closer to being tried in a special terrorism court, French media outlets reported on Monday.
Quoting a “judicial source” who spoke to the AFP news agency, the reports revealed that, on Oct. 26, the Paris prosecutor’s had recommended that assailant Moussa Coulibaly be sent for trial in the French Assize Court — the only court in the French legal system that engages in jury trials. However, in Coulibaly’s case, any trial would take place under a 1986 law that sends accused terrorists to a special tribunal of the Assize Court without a jury.
On Feb. 3, 2015, Coulibaly attacked a group of soldiers guarding the Consistoire de Nice, a major Jewish religious and educational center in the heart of the city. Brandishing a knife, Coulibaly stabbed two of the soldiers before being subdued by the third. While in custody, he spoke openly of his hatred of France, the French police and the Jewish community.
Coulibaly’s attack took place just three weeks after the week of terror in Paris in January 2015 that witnessed murderous attacks on the offices Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, as well as a kosher “Hyper Cacher” supermarket in the north-east of the capital. Four Jews were murdered in the “Hyper Cacher” attack, carried out by gunman Amedy Coulibaly — no relation to Moussa.
According to AFP‘s source, the Paris prosecutor’s recommendation for a special terrorism trial will need to be approved by a separate group of investigative judges. The prosecutor is urging that Coulibaly be tried on the charges of a”criminal terrorist conspiracy” along with “attempted terrorist assassinations.”
In common with many French jihadists, Coulibaly’s career path began with a life of petty crime, with several convictions for assault, shoplifting and drug-dealing. Local police were aware of Coulibaly’s embrace of radical Islamism in 2014, when they forcibly removed him from a gym which had earlier terminated his membership because of his “aggressive proselytizing.”
In Jan. 2015, Coulibaly attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS, but was turned back as he tried to cross the border from Turkey. He returned to France on Jan. 29 — five days before the attack in Nice — and was reportedly under police surveillance.