Mentors for the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly, Farid Benyettou, a former preacher who claims to repent, and Djamel Beghal, a veteran of the jihad, are called to testify on Thursday at the January 2015 trial, which is also presented as close to the Kouachi brothers, Peter Cherif is also heard at the video conference.
Following a three-day hearing on the hostage-taking of Hyper Kosher on January 9, 2015, the Special Assize Court in Paris is interested from Thursday, September 24 in the profile and motivation of the three perpetrators of the attacks: the Kouachi brothers, who had attacked Charlie Hebdo and Amédy Coulibaly, for the victims of Montrouge and the kosher store.
During a series of long-awaited hearings, three of their former mentors are called: Peter Chérif, imprisoned and accused in an inseparable part of the case, who must be heard by video conference, Farid Benyettou, who presents himself as a penitent, and Djamel Beghal, a veteran of Afghan jihad. The last two are free, but only the first will come to the bar.
The Shadow of Peter Chérif
Presented in turn as a mentor to brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, the instigator of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, an Al-Qaeda executive or even a jihadist, Peter Chérif remains a shadow hovering over this issue.
Arrested in 2018 in Djibouti with his wife and their two children, Peter Chérif will be heard from prison where he is being held pending his trial for criminal conspiracy. This man has often had problems with the law.
Peter Chérif was born in Paris in 1982 and tried to join the army in 2002, following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wounded, he abandoned the desire for a military life and converted to Islam in 2003. Like the Kouachi brothers, he was seduced by the words of Farid Benyettou, a charismatic mentor, now remorseful, by the so-called “des Buttes Chaumont” sector. That’s where he met the future Charlie Hebdo killers.
Via this delivery channel to the jihad zones, Peter Chérif flies to the Middle East. Damascus for a few months, then Iraq, where he spent several weeks on the front lines at the Battle of Fallujah, in November 2004.
Wounded during the fighting, he eventually surrendered to the Americans. Convicted of Iraqi justice, he spent a few years in some of the most notorious prisons of the time: Abu Ghraïb, then Badoush. From the latter, he fled in 2007, as several dozen members of al-Qaeda were imprisoned with him.
Peter Chérif then decides to leave Iraq. He returned to neighboring Syria, where he surrendered to the French authorities. He arrived in Paris, he is immediately accused, in an uneven part of the investigation of the Buttes Chaumont industry. In March 2011, he was sentenced to five years in prison for criminal conspiracy. But escapes from France before being imprisoned.
In the middle of the Arab Spring, he went to Tunisia, his mother’s country of origin. But it is against Libya that he first looks before he finally chooses Yemen, Al-Qaeda’s country on the Arabian Peninsula (Aqpa). Leaders of the organization, which will claim the attack on Charlie Hebdo, contact him, he explains to French justice.
He, who speaks Arabic, can he serve as a translator for the French who came to join the ranks of jihad, like Chérif Kouachi, who is suspected of having visited Yemen in 2011? Peter Chérif claims that he has only met Kouachi once, nothing more. Prolix about the daily life in Yemen, between several moves, various research work on drones for handling Aqpa, he is evasive, if not silent about something that can directly or indirectly link him to crimes committed in France.
A silence and gray areas during his passage in Yemen that leaves more than doubt about a possible participation in the attacks in January 2015. He has also been charged in a separate section of this investigation since the summer. 2019.
Farid Benyettou, Buttes-Chaumont Industry
Around 2003-2004, Chérif Kouachi began associating with radical Islamists, most notably Farid Benyettou, a self-proclaimed emir of a small, cohesive group of young people in their twenties who live, pray and train together in Paris’ 19th arrondissement. .
Benyettou divorced from childhood for his religious proselytism since childhood for political Islam in his family. When he dropped out of school, he moved away from his family and then moved closer to the rigorist Salafists, saying he had found “a meaning in his life” there. He adopts the traditional long shirt, beard, red and white keffiyeh.
Maintenance agent by day, preacher by night, he gets closer to the former Algerian Armed Forces (GIA) near Al-Qaeda. His small group cultivates hatred of the West and organizes the sending of jihadists to Iraq. This sector of the Buttes-Chaumontest was dismantled in 2005. Farid Benyettou faces six years in prison and Chérif Kouachi, arrested just before leaving for Iraq, for three years.
Benyettou was released from prison in 2009. He has said he has since converted to jihadism, especially since the assassination of Mohammed Merah in early 2012. He continues to see Chérif Kouachi, whom he describes as “his brother”, until 2014. He will say that he has tried in vain to divert him from radical ideas. Shortly after the attacks in January 2015, Benyettou, then in nursing education, introduced himself to the intelligence services and said he was ready to help with the investigation. He blames his guilt and thinks he has “part of the responsibility” by “preaching hatred”, while emphasizing that he “paid (his) debt to society” in prison.
Farid Benyettou will not ultimately be a nurse: the Order’s council is against it given his criminal record. He then worked with anthropologist Dounia Bouzar to prevent radicalization. In early January 2017, he published a book about his career “My Jihad: A Plan of Repentance” and shocked relatives of the victims of the attacks by wearing the badge “Je suis Charlie” during a television program.
Djamel Beghal, the veteran, was met in prison
During his detention in Fleury-Mérogis, in the suburbs of Paris, following his conviction in 2005, Chérif Kouachi met Amedy Coulibaly, imprisoned for theft. But also Djamel Beghal, a veteran of international jihadism.
Age around 40, Beghal spent the first 21 years of his life in Algeria before moving to France. He came to the authorities’ sights in the 1990s for his proximity to the GIA. He travels a lot, in Europe but also in Pakistan and Afghanistan, rocking international jihadism.
In 2001, he was arrested in the United Arab Emirates. He admits, before withdrawing and declaring that he was being tortured by Emirati investigators, after receiving a mandate from Al Qaeda to prepare for attacks in France. Exiled to France, he was sentenced in 2005 to ten years in prison.
In Fleury-Mérogis, Chérif Kouachi, Amedy Coulibaly and other young prisoners are impressed by the CV and “religious studies” of their elders, who become their mentor according to investigators.
Beghal was released in 2009 and is under house arrest in Cantal, where Coulibaly will meet him several times in 2010. The two men will be arrested that year for participating in an escape project by Smaïn Aït Ali Belkacem, a previously convicted GIA. life sentence for the attack at the RER station Musée d’Orsay in October 1995 in Paris. Djamel Beghal receives a second sentence of ten years in prison and is deprived of French nationality.
In July 2018, at the age of 52, at the end of his sentence in France, he was deported to Algeria, where he was sentenced in his absence in 2003 to 20 years in prison for “belonging to a terrorist group”. He was detained there and then tried again and acquitted in December 2019, according to his lawyer Farouk Ksentini.
Beghal is being delivered in the wake of his own accord and is now normally living in Algeria pending his appeal and will “not be able to testify” on Thursday in Paris, Ms Ksentini said, specifying “nothing will happen”.