French court artist Elisabeth de Pourquerie looked carefully into the eyes of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist and decided on an image she would capture for posterity.
Secluded from a glass screen, she sat just a few feet from Salah Abdeslam, who was suspected to be the lone surviving member of a commando of suicide bombers and gunmen who launched a series of coordinated attacks on Paris in November 2015. 130 people were killed in
“What’s important is his aura and his eyes, those deep, round eyes,” de Pourqueri told Reuters in his studio.
“You have this gaze that’s too deep and too intense, that clearly shows a lot of fear. And that’s what you need to recreate with a paintbrush.”
When Abdeslam removed his black mask during the first day of the trial and declared himself an Islamic State soldier, de Pourqueri made rapid strokes with his watercolor brush.
Suffice it to see the slightest expression etched on Abdeslam’s face, de Pourqueri described the calculated behavior of the 31-year-old, who expressed no remorse for the violence that took place on the night of November six years earlier.
“You could hear the tone of his voice. It was reasoned, thought,” continued de Pourqueri. “And it was on the icy shore.”
Now three weeks into the trial, the artist and defendant were each becoming accustomed to the other’s presence, with the French-Moroccan nods at the beginning of each hearing, she said.
De Pourqueri said he had designed 150 trials, including those of Islamic terrorists who attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in early 2015.
Court sessions can last up to 10 hours each day, during which de Pourqueri will design seven sketches for TV news bulletins.
It can be grueling, emotional work, humping in one position for hours, focusing on looming sketches, but being wary of missing a brief moment that defines the hearing of the day.
“It’s nice to take it off and paint something else, a beautiful watercolor, the sea, the beach, something that has nothing to do with testing,” she said.