Paris Metro attacks suspect Rachid Ramda goes on trial today after a decade-long battle by France for his extradition from Britain.
The trial, to run until March 22, will be the first act in a judicial confrontation for the 35-year-old Algerian.
In a second trial, not yet scheduled, he will answer to murder charges over the deaths of eight people and the attempted killing of 150 others in three Metro attacks in Paris in 1995.
Starting today, Ramda – considered the banker of Algerian terrorists who carried out the attacks – faces lesser charges of providing logistical help. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
For 10 years, Ramda was the object of an extradition battle between Paris and London, which began taking a tougher stance on terror suspects after the September 11 2001, al-Qaida attacks on the US.
Once Britain gave the green light for his extradition, Ramda used every possible appel to avoid his transfer to France. He was finally extradited in December.
The session is unlikely to go like clockwork – Ramda’s lawyer, Guillaume Barbe, says he will seek to have the trial postponed until the end of a police inspection into alleged torture of Islamic militants arrested in crackdowns during the attacks.
A book published this month by three journalists at the news weekly Le Point claimed Islamist suspects were subjected to torture by interrogators in Paris and Lyon.
One of the leaders of the bombing plots, Boualem Bensaid, now serving a life sentence, has said he was struck in order to extract a confession, according to Barbe.
The prosecution claims Ramda provided funds for the attackers from his London base. On October 16 1995, he allegedly sent a money order for £5,000 (€7,300) to Bensaid. He also allegedly claimed responsibility for the attacks in the name of the Armed Islamic Group, a radical Algerian movement, in the Al Ansar newspaper.
The Armed Islamic Group claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, revenge for alleged French support of Algeria’s military-backed government in the brutal uprising there that began in 1992.
The bloodiest attack, on July 25, 1995, killed eight people at the Saint Michel Metro station and injured 150 others. Two other people died in later attacks and scores were injured.