Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted fugitive until his capture last month, has been transferred to France where he will appear before investigating judges for eventual charges, the French prosecutor’s office has said.
Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium last month after four months on the run, was wanted in France for his role in the 13 November Paris attacks that killed 130 victims. He is considered to have been instrumental in the logistics for the attack, claimed by the Islamic State group.
The quick transfer of Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan origin, surprised even his lawyer Frank Berton in France who rushed from Lille to join his client at the Justice Palace on yesterday. Mr Berton described Abdeslam as a young man “falling apart” and ready to cooperate.
French justice minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said Abdeslam would be placed in isolation in a prison in the Paris region. He did not name the prison where Abdeslam would be housed.
Abdeslam was the only survivor of the attacks and his testimony will likely prove significant to definitively linking events of the night of carnage when three teams of attackers blew themselves up or sprayed gunfire at Paris night clubs, a noted music hall and a sports stadium outside Paris.
The transfer of the suspected extremist was carried out without advance notice and in secrecy. Abdeslam had been held in a high-security cell at a jail in Beveren near Antwerp.
Berton had met Abdeslam in the Belgian prison and said that his client wants to talk, telling him “he has things to say, that he wants to explain his route to radicalisation” as well as his role in the attacks – but not take responsibility for others.
“That means be judged for facts and acts that he committed but not for what he did not commit simply because he is the only survivor of the attacks,” Berton said.
Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up in the attacks, is charged with attempted murder over a 15 March shootout with police in Brussels. He was arrested three days later.
Belgian police questioned Abdeslam about potential links to the three suicide bombers who attacked the Brussels Airport and subway on 22 March, killing 32 – just days after Abdeslam’s arrest.
Mystery continues to surround Abdeslam’s role in the Paris attacks. He returned from France to Belgium after his brother blew himself up. However, a suicide belt bearing his fingerprints was found south of Paris and a car he had been driving was found in a northern Paris district.