French investigators quiz key Paris suspect Abdeslam

27th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, extradited from Belgium on Wednesday, faced an hours-long grilling by French judges over his role in the November 2015 carnage that left 130 dead.

Abdeslam, a French national of Moroccan origin who grew up in Belgium, is believed to be the last surviving member of the terror squad that hit cafes, a concert hall and the national stadium in Paris on November 13.

More than a month after his capture in Belgium, Abdeslam arrived in France early on Wednesday where he was formally placed under arrest and swept off to the main Paris courthouse under heavy guard.

"He will be presented to investigating judges during the day with a view to being charged," Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said in a statement.

His French lawyer, Frank Berton, told regional newspaper Voix du Nord that his client was "anxious to explain himself" in France.

Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said the suspect would be placed in isolation in a prison in the Paris region and monitored by "hardened guards" skilled in handling dangerous detainees.

Sources close to the investigation said he would be sent to the over-crowded prison of Fleury-Merogis, Europe's biggest jailhouse.

- 'Justice is on its way' -

Jean Reinhart, a lawyer for about 30 families of the attack victims, hailed the extradition, saying "justice is on its way".

Another lawyer for the victims' families, Samia Maktouf, said she hoped Abdeslam would "give elements that would allow the identification of the recruiters and financiers of the terrorist network he belonged to."

Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March 18 after four months on the run as Europe's most wanted man.

Prosecutors believe he was in charge of logistics for the Paris attacks, as he rented cars and hotel rooms used by the Islamic State group squad.

His brother Brahim detonated his suicide vest in a bar, and Abdeslam himself said he had been expected to do the same outside the national stadium, but had backed out at the last minute.

After revealing that nugget of information in his first interrogation, Abdeslam has since remained mum.

Abdeslam's arrest came just days before coordinated attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station that left 32 people dead.

Police have uncovered clear links between Abdeslam and the three Brussels suicide bombers, but he has said through his Belgian lawyer that he knew nothing about the attack.

Last month, Belgian police arrested another key Paris suspect called Mohamed Abrini, who was seen with Abdeslam before the attacks, and who also turned out to be the so-called "man in the hat" seen in CCTV footage with two bombers shortly before they staged the Brussels airport assault.

- 'Little moron from Molenbeek' -

Abrini grew up with Abdeslam in the gritty Brussels suburb of Molenbeek along with several other suspects, who all share a similar story of getting on the wrong side of the law and becoming radicalised.

His Belgian lawyer Sven Mary gave a lengthy interview to the Liberation newspaper that appeared on Wednesday, describing the difficulty of representing such an infamous client.

"There have been moments when I thought of giving up. If I had known about the Brussels attacks, maybe I would never have taken this case," Mary said.

He described his client as a "little moron from Molenbeek, more a follower than a leader. He has the intelligence of an empty ashtray. He is the perfect example of the GTA (Grand Theft Auto video game) generation who thinks he lives in a video game.

"I asked him if he had read the Koran, and he replied that he had researched it on the Internet."

The attacks suspects should be judged by an "international criminal court," he said.

"These people committed acts of war."

Mary said he had spoken to Abdeslam seven or eight times and he still was unsure how his client had ended up radicalised.

- Defendant 'worth gold' -

"A year and a half ago he was clubbing in Amsterdam. The only explanation I can find is that it was Internet propaganda that gave the impression that Muslims were unfairly treated," he told Liberation.

Mary blames Paris prosecutor Molins for his client's silence since he was first questioned.

Molins revealed the contents of the interrogation to French journalists, and Mary filed a complaint against him for doing so.

"I think Salah Abdeslam is of capital importance to this investigation. I would even say he is worth gold. He cooperates, he communicates," Mary said.

burs-fb/gd


© 2016 AFP

0 Comments To This Article