Five women, presumed jihadists, in the box of the accused. Ines Madani, Ornella Gilligmann, Sarah Hervouet, Amel Sakaou and Samia are judged three years after the failed attack of Notre Dame in the trial at the Assises which opens on Monday, September 23, in Paris.

Among these women, now aged between 22 and 42, four incur life imprisonment and the fifth, 30 years of criminal imprisonment. A sixth woman, who appears free, is tried for non-disclosure of a terrorist crime, an offense punishable by five years imprisonment.

For Jean-Charles Brisard, specialist in terrorism, this case "is a switch: it is from that moment that one becomes aware of the role of women" in the jihadist nebula in France.

"The issue of this trial will also be to understand who was the mastermind behind this attempted attack," says our special envoy, Karim Hakiki.

EM - Our Lady

The great missing of this trial is the inspirer of these alleged jihadists, Rachid Kassim. The man is judged by default: this propagandist of the Islamic State organization is probably dead in Iraq. He had already orchestrated the murder of a policeman and his wife in Magnanville (Yvelines) in June of that year, and in July, that of a priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy.

>> To read on France 24: "Attacks in France: what is known about Rachid Kassim, presumed member of IS"

Six gas cylinders discovered

On September 4, 2016, early in the morning, police discovered six gas cylinders in a car stopped in the middle of a street in front of restaurants near Notre-Dame. Diesel fuel and the remains of cigarettes are also found. Thanks to the fingerprints of two women, the investigators quickly identify Ines Madani and Ornella Gilligmann. Both were already known to the intelligence services for attempting to travel to Syria.

According to the magistrates instructors, "only a bad choice of fuel (...) failed their attempt" which procedure "augured a carnage". On 6 September, Ornella Gilligmann is arrested on a highway in the south of France, as she tries to flee with her husband and three children. Ines Madani, following the advice of Rachid Kassim, goes to Boussy-Saint-Antoine, in the Essonne, to another woman, Amel Sakaou.

A third young woman, Sarah Hervouët, joins them, also guided by the jihadist on encrypted messengers.

An "assassination attempt" on a policeman

On September 8, knowing that they had been hounded by the police, they left the apartment armed with kitchen knives. On the car park, Sarah Hervouët stabbed a police officer in civilian clothes of the DGSI in a van. Ines Madani is, her, injured in the legs by a policeman who shoots him. The latter, now 22, who has been a "mentor" for the "sisters" of jihad, will be judged for "attempted murder on a person with public authority", but denies having wanted to attack the policeman: she would have shouted "Kill me!", wanting to die as a martyr.

In April, Ines Madani has already been sentenced to eight years in prison for inciting jihad candidates to join Syria or to commit attacks in France and Belgium, between March 2015 and June 2016. She is known to have incited women to join the Islamic State organization, using pseudonyms of fighters on social networks. On the phone, she changed her voice to pass for a man.

A first at the assizes

This trial is a first, on several levels. This is the first case to be returned to the heart of the wave of attacks and attempted jihadist attacks, which has killed 251 people in France since 2015. In addition, for the first time, the prosecution will be represented by two judges of the national antiterrorist prosecutor's office, a specialized prosecutor's office which took office on 1 July.

The trial, which is being held before the special Assize Court, composed solely of professional judges, is scheduled to end on 11 October.

With AFP and Reuters