Belgian trial of Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam set for February

Delay in Brussels attempted murder case follows request from attorney for sole surviving suspect in 2015 French assault that left 130 people dead

Salah Abdeslam, the leading suspect in the 2015 jihadist attacks on Paris. (screen capture: YouTube)
Salah Abdeslam, the leading suspect in the 2015 jihadist attacks on Paris. (screen capture: YouTube)

BRUSSELS (AFP) — A Belgian court on Monday delayed until February the trial of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam over a shooting in Brussels that led to his capture.

Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead, had been due to face trial in the Belgian capital this week.

But following an application last week by Abdeslam’s lawyer Sven Mary, the court on Monday ruled the trial would start on Monday, February 5, and run until Friday, with Wednesday as a rest day.

Abdeslam and Sofian Ayari, also implicated in the shootout, face charges of “attempting to murder several police officers in a terrorist context” and “carrying prohibited weapons in a terrorist context.”

In this November 13, 2015 file photo, rescue workers tend to victims of a jihadi terror attack in the 10th district of Paris. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, file)

Both men were captured days after the March 15, 2016, shootout, ending a four-month manhunt for Abdeslam for his alleged role in the Paris attacks.

The 28-year-old is linked to the same cell that carried out suicide bombings in Brussels a week after the gunbattle. Thirty-two people were killed at Brussels airport and a metro station near the EU’s headquarters.

Abdeslam, born in Brussels of Moroccan origin, has spent nearly 20 months in isolation, under 24-hour video surveillance, at a prison in the Paris region since his transfer to France in April last year.

He has refused to cooperate with investigators and his offer to appear at the Brussels trial came as a surprise.

The hearings are a highly anticipated chance to see if he has changed his mind about keeping silent.

Screen capture from VTM shows Salah Abdeslam, center, as he is arrested by police and bundled into a police vehicle during a raid in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, Belgium, March 18, 2016. (VTM via AP)
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