US singer Jesse Hughes arriving at the court in central Paris – Copyright AFP ISHARA S. KODIKARA
The frontman for the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal testified Tuesday at the trial for the November 2015 attacks on Paris which saw gunmen attack the Bataclan concert hall while the band was playing.
A sombre Jesse Hughes arrived at the court in central Paris dressed in a black suit and red tie.
Referring to his religious faith, which he also mentioned during his testimony, Hughes said that he had forgiven the Islamist gunmen who killed 90 people at his band’s concert.
“I’m a Christian and everyone can be lost and everyone needs to find the way and most of the gentlemen in there do, so I forgive them and I hope that they find the peace of God themselves,” he told reporters.
France’s biggest-ever criminal trial is hearing evidence against the only surviving member of the Islamic State suicide team that attacked restaurants, bars, the Bataclan and the national sports stadium.
Main defendant Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium after five months on the run, has explained how he abandoned plans to blow himself up and has apologised to victims.
His tearful appeal for forgiveness last month contrasted with his defiance at the start of the trial when he refused to recognise the authority of the judge or answer questions.
Nearly 20 others are answering charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks, as well as supplying weapons.
– ‘Worked through it’ –
Hughes told the court that he recognised the sound of gunfire instantly when the three gunmen with suicide vests burst in mid-show — and said his life had changed forever following the attack.
But he said the attackers had not succeeded in their goal of depriving people of the joy they feel from listening to music.
“You can’t kill rock’n’roll,” he said, quoting fellow rocker Ozzy Osbourne.
After his brief appearance in the witness box, he embraced fellow witnesses and victims who were following proceedings at the court complex in central Paris, ending up in tears himself.
The right-wing rocker, who was a supporter of US President Donald Trump, caused dismay in France in the aftermath of the attacks by suggesting that Muslim security staff were involved and that Muslims were celebrating outside the venue.
Hughes was barred from the Bataclan re-opening concert in 2016 as a result.
He later apologised for his remarks and withdrew them, saying he had been struggling from nightmares and mental health problems.
Despite his experience at the Bataclan, Hughes is also an outspoken pro-gun advocate in the United States.
Asked why he was now ready to forgive the attackers, he told reporters: “I was never out of the mood of forgiveness. But I’ve just worked through it.”