The proprietor of the Casa Nostra restaurant in Paris has been fined and ordered to pay compensation to five victims featured in a CCTV video he sold without consent of the café being shot at in November 2015 during the terror attacks that killed 130.
Dimitri Mohamadi was found guilty of “disclosing video images to an unauthorized person” and illegally installing a video surveillance system. He was fined €10,000, his two intermediaries involved in selling the footage €5,000 and €1,500, and all three have been told to pay damages of €6,000 to the five victims.
“I felt a deep anguish, it was a terrible shock, to relive the attack in a brutal, intense and unexpected way,” Quentin, one of the people on the CCTV tapes, told the court in Paris last month. “I would have liked not to see these images in this very vulnerable, post-traumatic period. Afterward, I became obsessed, and watched it dozens and dozens of times.”
Mohamadi, who is of Algerian origin, insisted throughout the proceedings that he was a peripheral figure in the distribution of the CCTV footage, who never made any money from the recording, which shows panicking Parisians seeking shelter from one of the nine Islamist attackers, as he discharges rounds from an automatic rifle on the street outside. No one inside the Casa Nostra was hurt, though five died in an establishment across the road.
But prosecutors painted a different picture. In the aftermath of the attack, police had encrypted the footage after viewing it, to prevent it from being distributed to the public, but Mohamadi asked an associate to decrypt it, before hawking it to the media.
Freelance journalist Djaffer Ait Aoudia then filmed hidden camera footage of a man – one of the accomplices fined – posing as a “cousin” of Mohamadi, haggling about the sale of the video with representatives of the UK tabloid the Daily Mail, which reportedly paid €50,000 for it.
Once the details of the transaction became public, the Daily Mail, whose publication of the video has been shared tens of thousands of times, said it had no reason to apologize.
“There is nothing controversial about the Mail’s acquisition of this video, a copy of which the police already had in their possession. It was obtained against stiff competition from French and international media outlets and provided a vital perspective on a massive global news story,” the media outlet said in a statement in 2015. “The publication of the video – one of many that emerged in the aftermath of the events in Paris – on MailOnline and stills in the paper was demonstrably in the public interest.”
But public opinion had rapidly turned against Mohamadi.
Within weeks of the attack, the mayor of Paris stripped Casa Nostra of a proposed €40,000 compensation fee for being targeted, and a campaign on social media urged customers to boycott an establishment, due to his supposed attempts to profit off of the tragedy.
Mohamadi says that business still hasn’t recovered, whether due to the associations with the attacks, or the subsequent publicity, while outside the court, his lawyer railed at the media for “manipulation and mistreatment” of his client.
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