Friday 24 January 2020

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam charged with terrorist murders

Salah Abdeslam has been handed over to French authorities (Belgium Federal Police/AP)
Salah Abdeslam has been handed over to French authorities (Belgium Federal Police/AP)

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has been hit with preliminary charges of terrorist murders and possession and use of bombs and weapons, his lawyer said.

Frank Berton said the 26-year-old will be sent to a jail outside Paris later on Wednesday.

He said Abdeslam told an investigating judge that he would explain his role in the deadly attacks in the French capital on November 13 at a later date.

Abdeslam was extradited from Belgium to France in what Mr Berton described as a "muscular operation" involving an early-morning transfer from his cell in Belgium and a cross-border police helicopter ride.

The express transfer surprised even Mr Berton, who had to rush from Lille to join his client at Paris' Palace of Justice, arriving in the early afternoon.

The Paris attacks were carried out by three teams of assailants who blew themselves up or sprayed gunfire and Abdeslam's testimony will likely prove significant to definitively linking the events that night. His brother was one of the suicide bombers.

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

Georges Salines, whose daughter Lola died at the Bataclan music hall, said Abdeslam's arrival in Paris had enormous significance for victims of the attacks.

"Up to this point, he is the key actor of the November 13 attacks to be behind bars," he told BFM television.

"I would like to look him in the eye. If I could even talk to him, it would be important to me."

Geraldine Berger-Stenger, a lawyer for several of the French victims, warned against pinning too much hope on any revelations from Abdeslam.

"I expect he will cooperate but I am very cautious," she told BFM. Abdeslam is a key witness "but we are perhaps hoping for too much."

PA Media

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