The Bataclan trial for the terror night in Paris in 2015 ended with harsh sentences for the accused Islamists. The widow of a German murdered in the concert hall says that the procedure helped her a lot.

A new chapter is now beginning for the victims of the Paris attacks of November 2015. The legal processing of the worst attacks that France has ever experienced has been completed for the time being with the verdicts announced on Wednesday. Sophie Bouchard-Stech, whose husband from Hanover was killed in the Bataclan concert hall, was relieved after the verdict. “The harsh penalties are the only guarantee that they won’t start all over again,” she told AFP.

The main defendant, Salah Abdeslam, was sentenced to life imprisonment, which can hardly be shortened. All other 19 defendants also received prison sentences.

The process helped her a lot, said the widow. “I met a lot of people with whom I could share my experiences.” Together with the other victims and relatives, she felt at times “like part of a big family”.

Husband was at the Bataclan concert

Thanks to an interview, she managed to find a very special eyewitness: “I met the woman who Fabian last saw alive,” said the lawyer who lives in Lyon. This woman had known her name for a long time but did not dare to contact her. After Bouchard-Stech said in a TV interview at the beginning of the trial that she hoped to find out more about the night of terror, contact was finally made.

Bouchard-Stech met her husband Fabian in the mid-1980s during a semester abroad in Berlin. He followed her to France, worked as a German teacher and enjoyed listening to music. On November 13, he was at the Eagles of Death Metal concert when the assassins stormed the hall and shot people 258 times within half an hour.

The mother of two adult children drove to the court hearings several times and testified herself. But when the accused had the floor, they covered their ears.

She cannot believe the statements of the main defendant, Salah Abdeslam. “He never showed that he had abandoned his jihadist ideas,” she said. Abdeslam had driven three of the attackers to the Stade de France. However, he had discarded his own explosive belt and fled to Belgium.

He explained during the trial that he had refrained from detonating the explosive device out of “humanity”. The judges questioned this and pointed out that the explosive belt had been defective.

Abdeslam tearfully begged the victims and their families for forgiveness during the trial, but Bouchard-Stech didn’t believe him. “He only did it to get a lighter sentence,” she said.

Almost ten months ago, she went to Paris to start the process. “I want to show that we are strong and that we stand together,” she said at the time. “I want to be there, I want to keep my husband’s memory alive.”

Now she is happy that it is over, but at the same time she is “afraid of the great emptiness”. “We will suddenly find ourselves back in our normal lives,” she said, as if she could hardly believe that a new chapter was actually beginning.