Paris terror attack suspect Salah Abdeslam accused of 'mocking' trial

8 February 2018, 13:09

Paris terror attack suspect Salah Abdeslam has been accused of "mocking" the trial over the gun battle that led to his arrest.

The last surviving suspect from the Islamic State cell behind the 2015 atrocity refused to appear in court as proceedings resumed in Belgium.

On the first day of the trial on Monday, the 28-year-old accused judges of being anti-Muslim, refused to answer questions and said he put his "trust in Allah".

He told the court that "silence does not make me a criminal".

Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium and then transferred to France, was brought back to Brussels from a jail near Paris under heavy security.

The trial relates to the March 2016 gun battle in Brussels that resulted in Abdeslam's capture.

Three police officers were wounded in the shootout in the Forest district of the Belgian capital.

Abdeslam will face trial in France at a later date over the Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead in a series of coordinated bombings and shootings at the Stade de France, the Bataclan concert hall and at bars and restaurant.

His brother Brahim was one of the suicide bombers, and Abdeslam's DNA or fingerprints were allegedly found at five sites in Belgium used by the cell behind both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

The latter attack - which happened in the same month Abdeslam was captured - saw three suicide bombers blow themselves up at one of the city's airports and a metro station, leaving more than 30 dead.

Speaking in court on Thursday, a lawyer for two of the elite officers involved in the raid that captured Abdeslam said his "attitude and his opportunism tire me".

"He will mock our rule of law, he will mock everybody. He will not recognise your court, he will not recognise your laws," Tom Bauwens told the court.

"But he will nevertheless ask for a lawyer to plead his case before you," he added.

Abdeslam's Belgian lawyer, Sven Mary, said that he would continue to represent him after his client refused to attend the second day of proceedings.

Co-defendant Sofiane Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian, appeared alone in the court on Thursday.

Prosecutors are seeking the maximum available sentence of 20 years for both Abdeslam and Ayari, who face terrorist-related charges of attempted murder of police officers and possession of banned weapons.

"On the sentence, we appeal for the court's clemency," Ayari's lawyer Laura Severin told the court.

While trial is scheduled to last for only four days, the court is expected to deliberate for several weeks before a verdict is handed down.

Prosecutors say DNA links Abdeslam to the apartment where the shooting took place, but not to the weapons themselves that were used.

The court heard that one was discovered in Ayari's hands, while the other was found with Algerian Mohamed Belkaid, who was killed in the gun battle.

One of the officers injured in the shootout, described only as agent nine, is still suffering the after-effects, Mr Bauwens told the court.

"He is suffering so much from his brain lesions that he no longer knows what to do," he said.

"He has epileptic fits. He has loss of vision and balance. It's the reality. Agent number nine did his work and all he asks for is for you the court to continue the work he started."