The trial of the network of suspected jihadis began in France on Monday, a group that includes the brother of one of the assailants who carried out the deadly Paris terrorist attacks last November that killed 130 people.
The group of seven men, aged from 24 to 27, were part of a 10-person network of militants who traveled to Syria in December 2013, where two of them died. One of them, Foued Mohamed-Aggad, stayed behind and later was one of the three-man team that killed 90 people at the Bataclan concert hall during the multiple attacks in Paris.
The seven suspects who returned to Paris were arrested in 2014 on suspicion of taking part in an Islamist recruitment network and plotting unspecified terrorist activity after they returned. They all face charges up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
Foued's brother, Karim Mohamed-Aggad, is among the seven accused.
The men were enlisted by suspected IS recruiter Mourad Fares, who was arrested in 2014 but was not on trial Monday. The defendants said they believed they were going to Syria on a humanitarian mission or to fight Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces but not to become Islamist militants.
"I went there with one goal only: to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad," Karim Mohamed-Aggad told the court.
Mohamed-Aggad urged the court not to confuse him with his brother. "You choose your friends, not your family," he said. "My brother did what he did, he alone bears responsibility."
The group's defense team says the seven were duped and when they realized they had fallen into the hands of a militant network they looked for a way out.
"They were told they could be useful," said Martin Pradel, lawyer for one of the defendants, told Reuters ahead of the hearing. "Their mistake was to believe the propaganda."
"This is the trial of seven youths who came back after three months," said Xavier Nogueras, another lawyer for the defendants. "That will allow us to highlight the difference between those who decided to come back and the one who stayed."