Friday 19 January 2018

Bataclan suspect in silent protest at cameras in his cell

Salah Abdelslam
Salah Abdelslam

Philippe Sotto in Paris

The only surviving suspect in last November's attack on Paris refused to speak to a judge yesterday for a third time, in frustration at 24-hour video surveillance of his prison cell.

Salah Abdeslam's lawyer, Frank Berton, said the judge repeatedly asked questions to no avail.

Berton said Abdeslam wasn't obligated to explain his silence but "obviously" it's linked to the constant surveillance.

Authorities hope Abdeslam can provide information about the Islamic State (Isil) group's strategies and networks, and identify others who might have had a connection to the November 13 attacks, which killed 130 people.

The same network that attacked Paris struck again in Abdeslam's hometown of Brussels in March, days after he was tracked down in his hideout and arrested.

His Brussels lawyer was present at yesterday's hearing in Paris.

While Abdeslam is the only person suspected of directly participating in the attacks, others believed linked to it also are being identified as French and other European authorities continue their investigations.

Austrian prosecutors, meanwhile, announced yesterday that two men who spent time in a Salzburg refugee camp with other suspects in connection to the attacks have been charged with being part of the Isil "terrorist organization".

A statement from the Salzburg prosecutor's office said the two are suspected of helping two other suspects who Austria extradited to France earlier this year through "logistics as well as through gathering information and arranging contacts".

Those extradited had been charged with "the preparation of ... attacks in Paris as members of Isil," according to the statement.

The two whose charges were announced yesterday are identified as a 26-year-old Moroccan and a 40-year-old Algerian, but haven't been publicly identified in keeping with Austrian privacy laws. They also are charged with belonging to a criminal organisation.

The two extradited in July were a 35-year-old Pakistani and a 29-year old Algerian. All four are believed to have come to Europe last year posing as refugees.

Abdeslam kept silent at a hearing in May, and refused to attend a hearing in July. Berton argued that two round-the-clock video cameras in Abdeslam's cell in Fleury-Merogis prison could cause psychological damage, but France's top administrative authority struck down the lawyer's request to remove them.

Judicial authorities argue the surveillance is needed to ensure he doesn't commit suicide.

Abdeslam (26) had initially said he wanted to explain his path to radicalisation and his role in the November 13 attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, cafés and the national stadium. The other attackers died in suicide bombings or under police fire. Abdeslam's precise role in the attacks has never been clear. The Paris prosecutor has said he was equipped as a suicide bomber that night, but abandoned his plans and fled.

Abdeslam evaded police for four months, but was arrested in March in the Brussels neighbourhood where he grew up. He was later extradited to France and handed several preliminary terrorism charges.

Irish Independent

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