Thursday 19 July 2018

Paris attack suspect back in France to face charges​

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam Photo: Belgium Federal Police via AP
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam Photo: Belgium Federal Police via AP

Elaine Ganley

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam - Europe's most wanted fugitive until his capture in Belgium last month - was transferred yesterday to France and was to appear before investigating judges who will decide how to charge him, the French prosecutor's office said.

Prosecutors say Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium last month after four months on the run, was instrumental in coordinating logistics for the November 13 attacks that killed 130 people at Paris night clubs, a noted music hall and the sports stadium outside the city.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage.

The quick, secret transfer surprised even Abdeslam's lawyer in France, who rushed from Lille to join his client at the Palace of Justice, arriving in the early afternoon.

Frank Berton, who announced before the transfer was disclosed yesterday that he would represent Abdeslam, described his client as a young man "falling apart" and ready to cooperate.

He said his client wants to talk, "he has things to say, that he wants to explain his route to radicalisation" as well as his role in the attacks - but not take responsibility for others.

"That means be judged for facts and acts that he committed but not for what he did not commit simply because he is the only survivor of the attacks," Berton said.

Testimony from Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan origin, will likely prove significant to definitively linking events of that night, which involved three teams of attackers who blew themselves up or sprayed gunfire. His brother was one of the suicide bombers.

Abdeslam's precise role in the attacks remains a mystery. He returned from France to Belgium afterward, calling cohorts in Brussels to fetch him.

However, a suicide belt bearing his fingerprints was found south of Paris and a car he had been driving was found in a northern Paris district, prosecutors said.

He was captured just four days before the March 22 bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station that killed 32 people. The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for those attacks.

French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said Abdeslam would be placed in isolation in a prison in the Paris region, watched by guards specially trained to deal with "people reputed to be dangerous."

Irish Independent

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