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  Home > Europe

Salah Abdeslam Trial: Paris Attacks Suspect Lambasts 'Anti-Muslim Bias'

Salah Abdeslam is refusing to co-operate with the court


 February 6th, 2018  |  09:19 AM  |   1527 views



The sole surviving suspect from the 2015 Paris terror attacks refused to speak any further in a Belgian court, where his trial over the gunfight that led to his arrest began on Monday.


Salah Abdeslam said he would not respond to questions from the judge.


"My silence does not make me a criminal, it's my defence," he said.


Abdeslam, 28, claimed that Muslims were "judged and treated in the worst of ways, mercilessly", and said he was placing his trust in Allah.


"I am not afraid of you, I am not afraid of your allies," he added, without making clear who he meant.


He urged the prosecution to base its case on "forensic and tangible evidence", and not to "swagger about to satisfy public opinion".


The trial in Brussels was adjourned until Thursday.


Abdeslam has refused to speak to investigators since his initial interrogation in March 2016.


What is Abdeslam accused of?


French prosecutors believe Abdeslam played a key role in the Paris attacks, in which gunmen and suicide bombers targeted a concert hall, stadium, restaurants and bars, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds more.


He became Europe's most wanted man after the mass killings, and was captured in Brussels four months later.


The defendant's brother, Brahim, was among the Paris attackers and died in a suicide blast outside a cafe.


Abdeslam is not expected to go on trial in France until 2019 at the earliest.


The charges he faces in Brussels are not related to events in Paris, but to a shootout with police while he was on the run in Belgium.


Abdeslam and his suspected accomplice Sofien Ayari, 24, are accused of possessing illegal weapons and the attempted murder of police officers in a terrorist context.


The men allegedly fought a gun battle with officers who raided the flat where they were holed up, in the Molenbeek district of Brussels.


The Belgian prosecutor, Kathleen Grosjean, said she was seeking the maximum of 20 years' imprisonment for each of them.


In court on Monday, Ayari said he had fought for the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in Syria, and that both he and Abdeslam were present during the standoff.


The prosecutor has said she does not believe Abdeslam actually fired any weapons.


She explained that two Kalashnikovs had been used during the clash. The first shooter is known to be Algerian national Mohamed Belkaid, who was subsequently shot by special police. The prosecution believes the second shooter is Ayari due to DNA found on the weapon.


However, this would not affect Abdeslam's potential sentence, due to the "indispensable aid" he allegedly gave Ayari and Belkaid.


Who gets Abdeslam, France or Belgium?


Abdeslam, a French citizen born to Moroccan parents in Brussels, has been held at a prison near Paris. He left the facility under armed guard in the early hours of Monday, accompanied by tactical police vehicles.


He will return to France every night during the trial, but will be held at another jail just across the border.


Up to 200 police will be guarding the courthouse for the trial.


Is his silence a major obstacle?


The right to silence is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, but it is not an absolute right.


European human rights law says a defendant's decision to remain silent can be taken into account when assessing the prosecution's evidence. That is especially so "in situations which clearly call for an explanation from him [the defendant]".


Observers say that given other suspects have spoken and co-operated with the police, Abdeslam's silence won't necessarily hurt the prosecution's case.


But if he remains silent on the Paris attacks too, it would "be horrible for the victims' families", said Guy Van Vlierden, a Belgian journalist specialising in security and terrorism issues.



courtesy of BBC NEWS



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