Friday 23 March 2018

Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam refuses to answer judge's questions

French security officers secure the convoy transporting Salah Abdeslam as it leaves the Paris courthouse (AP)
French security officers secure the convoy transporting Salah Abdeslam as it leaves the Paris courthouse (AP)

The last known survivor of the Islamic State team that carried out November's Paris attacks has refused to talk during questioning by anti-terror judges, and the session ended abruptly.

Salah Abdeslam's lawyer, Frank Berton said his client had invoked his right to silence.

Abdeslam, 26, had said last month that he wanted to explain all. Mr Berton told reporters that Abdeslam was disturbed by 24-hour video surveillance in his maximum-security cell and called the practice illegal.

"He can't tolerate being watched on video 24 hours a day," Mr Berton said. "Psychologically that makes things difficult."

Friday was the first time Abdeslam had been questioned since his extradition from Belgium last month. At that point, Mr Berton said his client wanted to talk to investigators and explain his path to radicalisation.

Abdeslam, a French citizen of Moroccan origin, was handed six preliminary terrorism charges after his transfer on April 27 from Belgium, where he was arrested after four months on the run.

He is the only suspect still alive believed to have played a direct role in the November 13 bloodshed at a concert hall, stadium and Parisian cafes, which killed 130 people. The other attackers died in suicide bombings or under police fire.

Authorities and families of attack victims had hoped Abdeslam's testimony would shed light on how IS plotted the attacks, solve mysteries that remain about what exactly happened on November 13, and identify others who might have been involved, or support networks still hiding in the shadows.

Abdeslam's precise role in the attacks has never been clear. The Paris prosecutor has said he was equipped as a suicide bomber, but abandoned his plan and fled to Belgium, where he grew up.

Abdeslam's older brother blew himself up at a cafe during the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam was captured on March 18 at a hideout near his childhood home in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels. Four days later, suicide bombers detonated their explosives at Brussels airport and metro, killing 32 people.

Press Association

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