Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Paris attack suspect refuses to answer questions at trial


PARIS: 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.

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