In France, hundreds of jihadist terror cases have been prosecuted. These include cases of persons who traveled to Syria to join armed groups, as well as their supporters and associates. Consequently, local administrative and criminal courts, with ordinary judges and ordinary professional routine, find themselves involved in major geopolitical issues – a completely new phenomenon for them.
For the last two years, as a part of a multi-disciplinary research group composed of an anthropologist, sociologist and jurists, we have been observing those terror trials held in Paris. Through ethnography and legal analysis, we examine the role French courts in the global fight against terrorism as transnationalized actors: how transnational conflicts are represented within ordinary criminal courtrooms, how political goals are translated into legal doctrines, and how legal doctrines facilitate or limit the achievement of those political goals. This is done, while staying attuned to the court’s institutional and professional structure, routine and bureaucracy as well as the sociology of the different judicial actors and their internal political and professional struggles. What can we learn from that interaction in the courtroom?