PARIS: A French court on Tuesday handed a 12-year jail term to a computer technician who traveled to Syria to wage war and trained under the suspected ringleader of the 2015 Paris attacks.
Reda Hame, 34, who was convicted of participating in a criminal conspiracy aimed at harming people, received weapons training and a mission from Abdelhamid Abaaoud during his eight-day stay in Syria in the summer of 2015.
Abaaoud, who is believed to have coordinated the November 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris, taught him how to fire an assault rifle and handle a grenade.
He then dropped him off at the Turkish border with orders to return home and carry out an attack on behalf of the Daesh group.
Hame told investigators that Abaaoud, who was killed in a shootout with French police after the Paris attacks, asked him if he would be prepared to shoot into a crowd, giving as an example a rock concert.
But the Paris native, who was arrested on his return to France, insisted that he never had any intention of following Daesh’s orders.
Styling himself an Daesh deserter, he told the court he only pretended to accept his mission to escape the horrors of the Syrian war and regretted ever enlisting with Daesh.
The prosecution had challenged his account of his change of heart, portraying him as a dutiful Daesh “soldier” who had traveled to Syria to join Daesh “at a time when the most hardine, those who will go on to attack Europe and France, are leaving (France for Syria).”
In sentencing Hame to 12 years in jail — the prosecution had sought a 20-year term — the court “showed clemency,” the defendant’s lawyer Archibald Celeyron said.
Hundreds of young French radicals traveled to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh before US-led coalition forces dislodged the insurgents from the last holdouts last year.
Dozens have returned home and been jailed in France but some scores more remain in camps in Syria.