A French court was set Thursday to give its verdict against a Moroccan man charged with planning a terror attack on a Paris-bound international train, only to be thwarted passengers including off-duty US soldiers.
The prosecution has asked for a life sentence for Ayoub El Khazzani, now 31, over the August 21, 2015 foiled plot on the the Amsterdam-Paris high-speed Thalys train.
The events inspired a 2018 film “The 15:17 to Paris” directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood who had at the start of the trial been mooted as a possible witness but in the end was not asked to appear.
The verdict against Khazzani will come one day after a Paris court convicted 13 accomplices of the attackers who carried out massacres at the Charlie Hebdo weekly and a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January 2015.
Unlike Khazzani, who was immediately apprehended, all the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo assault were killed in the aftermath of the massacres, leaving only their accomplices to go on trial.
Khazzani was tackled by passengers shortly after emerging bare-chested and heavily armed from a toilet on the train.
“I am sorry to the bottom of my heart,” Khazzani told the court in a tearful final statement. “What I did tears me apart, it freezes the blood.”
He argued that despite being armed to the teeth with an AK-47 automatic rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition he renounced the plot at the last minute as he could not kill people.
However the prosecution says it was only faulty munitions and the intervention of other passengers that stopped a massacre taking place.
There were about 150 passengers in the carriage with Khazzani some
Jail sentences of up to 30 years have also been demanded by prosecutors for three suspected accomplices.
The passengers who intervened included three Americans who were holidaying in Europe, two of them — Spencer Stone and Aleksander Skarlatos — off duty American servicemen.
“I don’t feel like a hero because we were just doing what we had to do to survive,” Skarlatos said after giving evidence in court during the trial.