Sunday 25 February 2018

Paris attacks terror cell suspect refuses to stand at shootout trial

Salah Abdeslam is on trial in his hometown of Brussels on charges of attempted murder over a police shootout.

In this courtroom sketch, Salah Abdeslam, right, and Soufiane Ayari, left, appear at the Brussels Justice Palace (Petra Urban via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Salah Abdeslam, right, and Soufiane Ayari, left, appear at the Brussels Justice Palace (Petra Urban via AP)

By Lori Hinnant

The only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 has refused to rise for a Belgian court or answer questions about his actions.

Salah Abdeslam is on trial in his hometown of Brussels on charges of attempted murder over a police shootout.

A man who covered for his getaway with a spray of automatic gunfire during the shootout was killed.

Abdeslam’s escape was short-lived — he was captured on March 18 2016, in the same area where he and many of his Islamic State fighter colleagues grew up.

Abdeslam arrived in the Belgian capital on Monday after being transferred from a prison in France. Security was high at the Brussels courthouse, with armed guards and multiple checkpoints leading to the courtroom.

He is being tried alongside a second defendant, Sofiane Ayari, in relation to the shootout. The judge’s questions on Monday were oriented towards establishing which of the two had also fired on officers.

Asked why he was refusing to stand, Abdeslam said: “I’m tired, I did not sleep.”

Abdeslam, now wearing a full beard and longer hair than in pictures released before he was arrested, was flanked by masked guards and refused to answer questions beyond a few formalities.

“I do not wish to respond to any questions. I was asked to come. I came,” he said. “I defend myself by keeping silent.

“Muslims are judged and treated without pity, there is no presumption of innocence. I’m not afraid of you, I’m not afraid of your allies. I place my faith in Allah.”

Abdeslam has previously refused to speak to investigators in France about the attack there that killed 130 people in November 2015. Days after his capture, extremists struck in Brussels. In total, 162 people died in the two attacks.

The trial relates to the 2016 shooting in Brussels, some four months after the Paris attacks. Abdeslam and two suspects were hiding in an apartment when police arrived for a routine search. Three officers were wounded in the shootout that followed and one suspect was killed. Abdeslam was captured a few days later in the flashpoint Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek.

Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, a member of V-Europe, a victims’ association, said: “We want to see what elements will be provided in order to have a better understanding of this series of events and terror attacks, in France and in Belgium.

“This trial is one of the pieces of a global puzzle which will answer some of our questions. But at the same time, we expect to be very disappointed and to learn nothing.”

Press Association

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News