PARIS, France – Key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has been transferred from Belgium to France where he was expected to be charged later Wednesday, April 27, over the bloody rampage, prosecutors said.
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 killed 130 people in the French capital in November.
His French lawyer, Frank Berton, told the regional newspaper Voix du Nord that his client was “anxious to explain himself” in France. He said he had spoken to Abdeslam only once and had found him “very despondent.”
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said 26-year-old Abdeslam was formally placed under arrest after arriving on French soil at 9:05 am (0705 GMT).
“He will be presented to judges during the day with a view to being charged,” Molins said in a statement.
Sources close to the investigation said Abdeslam had been flown into France under tight security.
Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said he would be placed in isolation in a prison in the Paris region and monitored by “hardened guards trained in the detention of persons believed to be dangerous.”
Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March 18 after 4 months on the run as Europe’s most wanted man.
Prosecutors believe he was in charge of logistics for the coordinated series of attacks on Paris cafes, a concert hall, and the national stadium, which were planned in Brussels.
Abdeslam rented the cars that the Islamic State group squad used to travel to Paris, and booked the rooms where they stayed before launching the worst ever terror attacks on French soil.
His brother Brahim detonated his suicide vest in a bar, and after his arrest in Brussels Salah said he had been expected to do the same outside the national stadium, but had backed out at the last minute.
However Abdeslam has refused to answer questions since the day after his arrest.
Abdeslam’s arrest came just days before coordinated attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station that left 32 people dead, and police have uncovered clear links between Abdeslam and the 3 Brussels suicide bombers.
Brussels investigators believe the attacks in their city and those in Paris were carried out by the same cell.
A key Paris suspect, Mohamed Abrini, who was wanted after being spotted in a video with Abdeslam en route to the French capital, turned out to be the so-called “man in the hat” seen in CCTV footage with two bombers shortly before the Brussels attack.
‘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 radicalized.
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 looked up what it meant on the Internet.”
He said the attacks suspects should be judged by an “international criminal court. These people committed war crimes.”
Mary said he had spoken to Abdeslam 7 or 8 times and he still was unsure how he had ended up radicalized.
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 has 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. – Fran Blandy, AFP / Rappler.com