Paris attacks suspect in Brussels for trial over police shootout

Last surviving Paris terror suspect on trial over police gunfight

The prime surviving suspect in the 2015 attacks on Paris by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was tight-lipped as his trial in Belgium over a shootout with police got underway in Brussels on Monday.

Abdeslam and his alleged accomplice, Sofien Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian, face up to 40 years in prison on attempted murder charges for shooting at Belgian and French police who raided a suspected hideout in a Brussels borough on March 15, 2016.

During the hearing the federal prosecutor told the court that DNA evidence suggested it was Ayari who fired shots that wounded police officers in the ambush but that Abdeslam should be considered a conspirator.

Mr Abdeslam was said to have been hiding in a semi-derelict house on Rue...

At the Brussels court journalists and officials all had to pass through security checks.

Lawyers for Abdeslam, a French citizen born to and raised by Moroccan immigrant parents in Brussels, accept he was in Paris on 13 November 2015, when gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 at a rock concert, near the national stadium and outside cafes.

Abdeslam has refused to speak to investigators since he was arrested in March 2016, leading to the resignation of his French and Belgian lawyers, who say his silence makes any defence impossible.

The prosecution is a prelude to a later trial in France where prosecutors hope the Brussels case will yield clues not only about the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris but also the suicide bombings months later in Brussels.

Salah Abdeslam, 28, his long black hair and beard a stark contrast to the cropped, clean-shaven young man familiar across Europe from wanted posters during his four months on the run, was asked by the judge to rise and identify himself.

Police officers wearing body armour and black balaclavas with eye- and mouth-holes stood guard next to them as the trial started.

He launched his diatribe after presiding judge Marie-France Keutgen asked why he insisted on attending the trial where he refused to answer questions about the charges against him.

Abdeslam has been transferred from solitary confinement at Fleury-Merogis prison just outside Paris to a high security facility at Vendin-le-Vieil in Pas-de-Calais. He was not charged over the ISIS suicide bombings in Brussels a week after the shootout and four days after his arrest.

The same cell is believed to have been behind both the Paris and Brussels attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

Suicide bombing attacks on March 22, 2016, killed 32 people at Brussels airport and a metro station near the European Union headquarters.

Police say Abdeslam and Ayari were holed up at a flat in the Brussels district of Forest when it was raided by French and Belgian police in a routine operation after the Paris attacks.

A third suspect, 33-year-old Algerian Mohamed Belkaid, died while providing covering fire for their escape through a back door.

Abdeslam is reported to have disposed of a suicide belt before fleeing.

Abdeslam was captured a few days later in the flashpoint Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek.

Ayari entered Europe in September 2015 via the Greek island of Lesbos at the height of a migration crisis gripping the continent, and was one of dozen suspected jihadists ferried around Europe by Abdeslam.

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