Eight to stand trial in France over Bastille Day truck attack in Nice

Eight to stand trial in France over Bastille Day truck attack in Nice

Seven men and one woman accused of helping gunman who drove a vehicle into crowds, killing 86 people

The truck which ploughed into people on Nice promenade is seen near the site of the attack in July 2016.

Seven men and one woman will go on trial on Monday over the 2016 Bastille day attack in Nice, when a gunman drove a heavy truck at high speed into a crowd gathered to watch fireworks on the Riviera seafront, killing 86 people and injuring more than 400.

The attack - the second most deadly massacre in peacetime France - happened eight months after the Paris attacks on bars, restaurants, the national stadium and Bataclan concert hall, which killed 130 people and were claimed by Islamic State.

The attacker in Nice was shot dead by police and those on trial are accused of helping him.

The attack remains a national trauma for France. Thousands had gathered on the Mediterranean city's seafront boulevard for the Bastille Day fireworks display when a heavy truck was deliberately driven at high speed into the crowd, zigzagging and accelerating towards people for 2km along the esplanade, turning a festival atmosphere into carnage.

The number of children killed and injured was higher than in any other European massacre of recent years. Fifteen were killed, and many were seriously injured, bereaved or traumatised.

Some died with their mothers or relatives, the youngest aged two. The dead also included pensioners and tourists - 33 were foreigners. One local Nice family lost six people in the attack.

A third of those killed were Muslim.

The trial, which is being held in the same special courtroom built for the Paris attacks, will last until December, and it will be complex. The 31-year-old Tunisian-born driver of the truck, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, was shot dead by police as he began firing a semi-automatic weapon at officers from the truck's cab.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, but waited two days to do so, offering no proof that the attacker, who had a record of domestic violence and petty crimes, had had direct contact with the group.

Prosecutors allege the eight people on trial, who could face sentences of between five years to life in jail if convicted, helped Lahouaiej-Bouhlel obtain weapons, rent the truck or survey the route. Three of the accused are alleged to be close friends of the attacker and are accused of participation in a terrorist criminal association to help him obtain weapons and the truck.

Five others are accused of helping indirectly through arms trafficking, but not terrorism.

Survivors and relatives of the victims insist many questions remain over what they see as a lack of adequate security to protect the Bastille celebrations that day. Many would like to see officials questioned over potential security failings. But the trial will not address issues of security or organisation of the event.

Anne Murris, who lost her 27-year-old daughter Camille in the attack, and heads a victims' association, Memorial des Anges, is among the many bereaved and survivors who will speak in court about the devastation of that night.

Murris said she would tell the story of her daughter in court "to introduce her, and so that the people in the dock hear not just our suffering, but the inhuman nature of what happened and the lives that were stolen.

The lives of those who died were taken, but, by ricochet, a big part of my life was also stolen, as a mother whose family is now bereaved.

It's important that the maximum of people understand the great waste of this loss of life".

She added: "There's a wish to give names and faces to all these people who were killed, so that there they are not just hidden behind a number - 86 dead - and so they are never forgotten."

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