Judge rules Clint Eastwood cannot appear at trial of 'ISIS jihadi'

Judge rules Clint Eastwood cannot be called to testify in trial of alleged ISIS jihadi who claimed The 15:17 to Paris movie did not fairly represent him

  • Eastwood made a movie about the foiled terror attack aboard the train to Paris 
  • Ayoub el Khazzani was tackled by three Americans in August 2015
  • Khazzani’s lawyer wanted Eastwood called to discuss unfair depiction of client 
  • Judge threw out request saying the court would hear from those who were there

A judge has ruled that Clint Eastwood cannot be called to testify in the trial of an alleged ISIS jihadi who claimed The 15:17 to Paris movie unfairly represented him.

The Hollywood director had been listed among potential witnesses in the trial of Moroccan national Ayoub el Khazzani, who opened fire aboard a high speed train from Amsterdam to Paris in August 2015.

Khazzani was tackled by three Americans who later played themselves in the 2018 movie about their heroism directed by Eastwood.  

Khazzani’s lawyer asked to call Eastwood as a witness, claiming that the 90-year-old could ‘shed some light’ on the authenticity of scenes depicted in his movie.   

A courtroom sketch of Moroccan gunman Ayoub El Khazzani from 2016. El Khazzani was subdued by two US soldiers and their friend after he appeared from a train toilet carrying an AK-47 and a bag full of ammunition

The events on the high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris on August 21, 2015 inspired the film ‘The 15:17 To Paris’, directed by Clint Eastwood (pictured left earlier this year and right during filming of the movie)

US servicemen Spencer Stone (pictured shaking hands with former French president Francois Hollande) and Alek Skarlatos (second from left), along with their friend Anthony Sadler (right) subdued El Khazzani. The trio have been hailed as heroes for preventing a ‘slaughter’

Khazzani told investigators before the trial he decided against the attack at the last second but that it was too late to avoid the confrontation with passengers, a judicial source has said.

The movie however does not show this claimed change of heart. The defence lawyer feared the film could influence people’s view of the attack. She wanted to question Eastwood on what instructions he had given as a director to the actors.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors opposed the lawyer’s request. They said Eastwood had not witnessed the incident and that it made no sense to call on the elderly man in the midst of a pandemic. They accused the defence of seeking to ‘to create a buzz’.

The judge refused the request, arguing that Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, the young Americans who immobilised Khazzani before anyone was killed, would testify on Thursday and Friday.

The three men were awarded a medal of honor by then French president Francois Hollande, along with Mark Moogalian, a French-American professor who was shot in the back by Khazzani with a handgun after snatching his Kalashnikov rifle.

Moogalian, who is now 56, will also appear as a witness on Thursday.

Opening the trial this week, the prosecution lauded the Americans who tackled Khazzani after he emerged bare chested from a toilet with an AK-47 automatic rifle slung over his back and a bag of 300 rounds of ammunition.  

Pictured: A scene from ‘The 15:17 To Paris’, depicting the moment Moroccan gunman Ayoub El Khazzani (portrayed by Ray Corasani, pictured shirtless holding a gun) was confronted by US servicemen Spencer Stone

US servicemen Spencer Stone (portrayed in the movie by himself) said he choked El Khazzani unconscious as the men subdued him and prevented the attack

Thibault de Montbrial told the court that the trio’s ‘very brave intervention’ had thwarted a ‘slaughter’.

‘This terror attack could have killed up to 300 people based on the number of ammunition that was found on the terrorist and in his bag,’ he said. 

It was Mooligan who grabbed hold of Khazzani’s assault rifle as he emerged from the toilet. 

The attacker took a pistol out of his belt, shot and wounded Moogalian, and reclaimed the AK47.

One of the passengers, Franco-American professor Mark Moogalian (pictured on Monday arriving at the trial) grabbed Khazzani’s assault rifle as he emerged from the toilet, but was shot in the process

He was then tackled afresh and disarmed by the two US soldiers – Stone and Skarlatos – who heard the commotion from a neighbouring carriage.

The soldiers were aided by their friend Sadler, with whom they were backpacking through Europe.     

El Khazzani, a 31-year-old Moroccan and operative for the so-called Islamic State, spent several months in Syria and boarded the train in Brussels armed to the hilt, authorities say.

He is charged with attempted terrorist murder for the foiled attack. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Three others, who were not on the train, are also being tried for their roles as alleged accomplices.

Bilal Chatra, 24, an Algerian member of IS, would have been the second man on the train but dropped out of the plot a week earlier, it is alleged.

He had left Syria for Europe a week before to set up the exit route, prosecutors said.

Mohamed Bakkali allegedly took in the Europe-bound attackers in Budapest, Hungary, which he denies. The two were arrested in Germany in 2016.

A third man, Redouane El Amrani Ezzerrifi, allegedly piloted a boat to help in their return to Europe.

Pictured: Spencer Stone (left) and Anthony Sadler (centre), who acted in the ‘The 15:17 To Paris’, speak with director Clint Eastwood (right) in 2018

The trial serves as a bridge to the massacre of 130 people in Paris three months later, on November 13 2015, at the Bataclan music hall and restaurants and cafes.

The man considered the likely mastermind of those attacks, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, was the behind-the-scenes force of the train attack, planned in Syria, according to the prosecution.

Abaaoud travelled from Syria to Belgium with El Khazzani to organise attacks in Europe, and was holed up with him and Chatra in a Brussels apartment, according to the prosecution.

Abaaoud was killed by French special forces days after the Bataclan attack.

Pictured: Relatives of the man accused of the foiled terror attack arrive in court on Monday

But before his death, his macabre organisational skills were at work in a failed plan to attack a church south of Paris in April 2015 that left a young woman dead.

Sid Ahmed Ghlam was convicted earlier this month and sentenced to life in prison.

El Khazzani ‘knowingly followed Abaaoud, but it’s been years since he was in a jihadi mindset’, his lawyer Sarah Mauger-Poliak said in a phone interview.

‘He is very affected and regrets having allowed himself to become indoctrinated in propaganda.’

The propaganda evolved into a plot to allegedly kill trapped passengers.

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