Members of rock band Eagles Of Death Metal testified on Tuesday (17 May) about the night Islamic State group extremists stormed their Bataclan theatre concert and killed 90 people.
Frontman Jesse Hughes and guitarist Eden Galindo are among the survivors and witnesses of the attack, which took place on 13 November, 2015. They told the court that the attacks – France’s worst in modern history – changed their lives forever.
Hughes, who spoke of his faith during the trial, said to reporters outside that he had forgiven the gunmen responsible for the attack: “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.”
Hughes told the courts that he recognised the sound of gunfire immediately when the three gunmen with suicide vests stormed in mid-show and that he “knew death was upon us”. He added that they “ran for their lives” after “nearly 90 of my friends [the fans] were murdered in front of us”.
“I’m in a different state today,” said Hughes, according to a translated tweet by France 5 journalist Guillaume Auda, who’s covering the trial. “But I carry a nervousness in me since these attacks. I look at the crowds differently today. Now I’m starting to feel buried feelings again that I thought I had overcome.”
Jesse Hugues : Je suis dans un état différent aujourd'hui. Mais je porte une nervosité en moi depuis ces attaques. Je regarde les foules de manière différente aujourd'hui. Là je recommence à sentir des sentiments enfouis que je pensais avoir surmonté#proces13novembre /6793
— 𝔾𝕦𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕒𝕦𝕞𝕖 𝔸𝕦𝕕𝕒 (@GuillaumeAuda) May 17, 2022
Despite it all, Hughes said the attackers had not succeeded in their goal of depriving people of the joy of music.
“The perpetrators tried to leave a legacy of terror,” he said. The rocker then concluded with a quote by Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne: “You can’t kill rock ‘n’ roll.”
Meanwhile, Galindo testified that he thought the sound system was malfunctioning when the initial shots were fired: “I remember the crowd looking at us, not understanding. We thought it was going to stop. But it kept going. They reloaded.”
The guitarist recalled escaping through a side door, unsure whether the gunmen were chasing them. He ended up in a police station with others “covered in blood.” Galindo said that he thinks of the victims and prays for them every day, adding that, since the dark moment, “I live a different life. I’ll never be the same.”
France’s biggest-ever criminal trial is hearing evidence against Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving member of the suicide team that attacked several targets in Paris that night. Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium after five months on the run, has been defiant and contradictory in his testimony, but he broke down in court last month, asking for forgiveness and apologising to the victims.
The rest of the attackers blew themselves up or were killed by police. Nearly 20 others are awaiting charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks, and weapon supply. The trial is expected to wrap up next month.