He was a hero, he was taken for a terrorist.
In an interview with Le Monde, a man named Youssef recounts the unpleasant misadventure he experienced on Friday afternoon.
This Algerian national in his thirties was mistakenly taken for one of the suspects of the stabbing attack which left two wounded rue Nicolas-Appert (Paris, XIth) in front of the former premises by Charlie Hebdo.
Placed in police custody after being spotted on CCTV cameras discussing with the main suspect in this assault, Youssef was actually trying to control him.
Released in the night once the mistake is lifted, he is bitter.
"He has all the criteria to be naturalized"
"I wanted to be a hero and I found myself behind bars," he told our colleagues.
Since the publication of his testimony, several personalities and organizations on social networks have risen to demand the naturalization of this man who currently enjoys a 10-year residence permit.
This is particularly the case with SOS Racisme.
"He has all the criteria to be naturalized but it would be legitimate for the procedure to be accelerated in view of his heroic gesture", indicates its president, Dominique Sopo, who also claims the granting of the Legion of Honor.
“This would show that, even though Youssef would have been the victim of excessive bluntness, the French Republic also knows how to recognize the heroes on its territory.
In a period of tension, this beautiful gesture of justice and cohesion would be normal and welcome, ”develops the association.
To our colleagues, Youssef tells us that he was driving a car when he heard the cries of a woman.
This is the first victim of the assault, a 28-year-old employee of the Premier Lines company.
He then heard from the second victim, one of his 32-year-old colleagues.
"At that moment, I see a suspicious guy running in the direction of the Richard-Lenoir metro, I left directly to follow him", he recounts.
The inhabitants of the eleventh, in shock, are received by psychologists
Youssef rushes into the metro, in pursuit of this attacker whom he saw getting rid of his weapon, a chopper.
Once at his side on the quay, he addresses him.
“I walk in and ask him what he did.
He pulled out a cutter blade for me.
He said something to me, but I didn't understand anything.
I think he didn't speak French.
He was surprisingly calm ”.
The alleged perpetrator of the attack, a Pakistani who arrived as a minor in France in 2018 named Hassan Ali, will be arrested a few minutes later at Place de la Bastille.
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Currently still in custody, he admitted the facts and indicated that he wanted to attack "Charlie Hebdo" because of the republication by the weekly of the cartoons of Mohammed on the occasion of the opening of the trial. of the January 2015 attacks in Paris.
In a video, the suspect announces his action but does not swear allegiance to any terrorist organization.
"You didn't catch me at all, it was I who came to testify!"
As far as he is concerned, while he leaves the premises to retrieve his identity document in order to testify to the police, Youssef turns around, warned by his brother that his photo is circulating.
He gets in touch with a policeman.
“He called his boss, they had my picture.
They came around me, there were about ten of them.
They took me to the metro.
[…] Then they put the handcuffs on me.
I hear one whispering,
We nab it
I answer him:
You didn't catch me at all, it was I who came to testify!
Despite his explanations, the young man is notified of his placement in police custody and finds himself handcuffed and taken to the PJ premises.
Attack in Paris: a thoughtful act that raises questions about the security of the place
During this time, the news of the arrest of a second suspect spreads as well as fragmentary information on his identity.
Youssef will finally be released around midnight.
Also with Le Monde, his lawyer, Me Lucie Simon, deplores that his client has been placed in police custody.
"He could perfectly well have been heard freely, as a simple witness", she insists.
For now, the investigation is continuing.
In addition to the main suspect, eight people around him were still in custody this Sunday evening.
Even if the young Pakistani probably acted alone, investigators are interested in his environment.