French authorities knew in advance of Paris Kosher Supermarket killer’s weapons cache
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The ongoing trial in Paris of 14 suspects in the January 2015 terrorist attacks heard testimony on Thursday from a far-right political activist and arms trafficker whose weapons were funneled to Amedy Coulibaly, the Islamist gunman who murdered a policewoman on Jan. 8 and four people in a kosher supermarket on Jan. 9 before he was shot dead by anti-terrorist police officers.
Claude Hermant — who was recently released from a 3-year-jail term for a separate arms dealing offense — told the court that “there isn’t a night that goes by” that he did not think about the killings carried out by Coulibaly.
Eight of the weapons in Coulibaly’s extensive cache, including pistols and automatic rifles, were traced back to Hermant. He said that he had purchased the weapons from a company in Slovakia in 2014 and stored them in his girlfriend’s garage in the city of Lille, selling them onto middlemen who transferred the weapons further down the supply chain, where they came into Coulibaly’s possession.
Hermant claimed that he had been working as an informer for the the French police, insisting that the intelligence services had been fully aware of the Slovak arms cache from the moment it was brought into France.
“These weapons were easily traced, the police services were on it,” Hermant told the trial. “I don’t understand how these attacks could not have been stopped.”
Hermant added that that he has been closely monitored “for 14 months by four different police services” — a period that included the arrival of the weapons from Slovakia.
“So either I’m very good or they’re very stupid,” Hermant quipped.
Although Hermant was not on trial, the president of the court, Régis de Jorna, still subjected him to critical questioning.
De Jorna pointedly asked Hermant whether he felt responsible for the deaths of policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe, along with the four victims at the Hyper Cacher market, Michel Saada, Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham and Yohan Cohen.
“There isn’t a night that goes by that I don’t think about it,” Hermant said.
Pressed by de Jorna on his arms dealing activities, Hermant replied that the vast majority of his clients were hunting enthusiasts.
“And terrorists,” de Jorna countered. “Hunters in general don’t use assault rifles.”
A 57-year-old supporter of white supremacist movements, Hermant’s checkered past reportedly included stints in Africa and the Balkans as a mercenary and a spell as a security guard for the far-right National Front party.
He closed his testimony on Thursday by telling the court that he was now “retired” from the arms trade and no longer worked as an informer.