Salah Abdeslam trial begins in Brussels

Summary

The only surviving suspected member of the terrorist group behind the Paris attacks went on trial in Brussels this morning

Vorst shootout

Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving suspect of the 2015 Paris terror attacks, went on trial at a Brussels courthouse this morning. The trial marks the first time someone accused of being directly involved in the Paris attacks is standing trial.

The trial centres not on the Paris attacks but on a shootout in the Vorst district of Brussels in March of 2016, after which Abdeslam, 28, was apprehended and arrested. Sofien Ayari, who is standing trial together with Abdeslam, is alleged to have also participated in that gun fight.

Abdeslam is facing charges of attempted murder of police officers in a terrorist context and possession of illegal weapons, and could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison. He is being defended by lawyer Sven Mary, known for his high-profile clients.

Unprecedented security measures have been taken in and around the Brussels justice palace, and 400 police offers have been drafted to secure the premises of the sprawling courthouse.

Abdeslam was transported from a high-security prison in Vendin-le-Vieil, a town to the south of Lille in France, this morning.

Abdeslam's arrest in March of 2016 is believed to have been the trigger for the subsequent attacks on Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station eight days later, in which 32 people died. A date for the trial in relation to the Paris attacks has yet to be announced.
© Belga
Photo: Lawyers and journalists sit inside the courtroom on the first day of the trial

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