Paris Attacks Suspect Salah Abdeslam Goes on Trial in Belgium
Albanian Daily News
Published February 5, 2018
The only surviving suspected member of the jihadi group that carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks will go on trial in Belgium on Monday on separate terrorism charges.
Salah Abdeslam will make his first appearance in court accused of the attempted murder of police officers after a shootout in Brussels shortly before his arrest in March 2016.
Abdeslam, 28, fled Paris after the November 2015 attacks in the French capital that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more.
He was in hiding in a flat in a Brussels suburb when it was raided by police, who believed it had been used by a terrorist cell but was unoccupied at the time. After coming under fire from inside, three officers were injured and a terrorist suspect killed in a subsequent shootout. Abdeslam escaped over the rooftops, but was caught three days later.
He is awaiting trial in France on charges of murder linked to a terrorist organisation.
French security services say this week's trial will reveal whether Abdeslam is prepared to finally cooperate with the investigation into the attacks. So far he has refused to speak, prompting his French and Belgian lawyers to resign in frustration, saying his silence made any defence impossible.
Sven Mary, his Belgian lawyer, has since agreed to represent Abdeslam in court this week where he will face charges of "attempted murder of police officers linked to terrorism".
Abdeslam has been transferred from solitary confinement at Fleury-Merogis prison just outside Paris to a high security facility at Vendin-le-Vieil in Pas-de-Calais. French authorities have refused to confirm the move or the security measures for transporting the prisoner to and from Brussels each day for the trial. The courthouse and roads around it have been secured and security forces put on maximum alert.
Abdeslam will stand trial with a second Islamist suspect, Sofiane Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian arrested with him in the Brussels district Molenbeek. The hearing is expected to last until Friday. Both men face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Abdeslam, a French national, was named Europe's most wanted man after the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, which began when a suicide bomber blew himself up after failing to get into the Stade de France stadium where the then French president, François Hollande, was among 80,000 people watching a France-Germany football match.
This was followed by drive-by shootings and suicide bombings at cafes and restaurants around the 10th and 11th arrondissements of north Paris, and an attack at the Bataclan theatre during a rock concert where 89 people were killed.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, described by Hollande as an act of war. Investigators believe the operation was planned in Syria and organised by a group in Brussels.
Abdeslam is also implicated in the cell that carried out the March 2016 attack on Brussels airport and the city's metro system that killed 32 people, and the attempted attack on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris via Brussels in August 2015 thwarted by three US tourists.
In a letter believed to have been written by Abdeslam and discovered on the hard-drive of a laptop computer discarded in a bin just before the Brussels bombings, he writes that he had intended to die with his "brothers" in the Paris attacks, but his suicide vest failed to explode.
A vest packed with explosives was discovered in a bin in southern Paris. It was found to have faults in the wiring and detonator, but experts are still unsure whether it was defective or had been deliberately sabotaged.
In the letter, Abdeslam wrote: "Of course I wanted to be among the shahid [martyrs]. Allah decided otherwise ... I succeeded in joining the remaining brothers because there was a fault in my [suicide] vest."
After his arrest in Belgium, however, Abdeslam told police he had dumped the vest after changing his mind about blowing himself up.
He also wrote in the same letter that he wanted to go to Syria. "But on reflection I concluded ... the best thing would be to finish the work here with the brothers. Having said that I would just like to be better equipped in future before going into action."
Police say the letter shows Abdeslam was planning further attacks.
(Source: The Guardian)