Day 1: Salah Abdeslam Trial

Salah Abdeslam’s trial started today in Brussels. He is charged with a shooting that took place in Brussels (rue Dries) on 15th March 2016.

The beginning of the trial was highly awaited both by the victims’ families of the Paris attacks and the media. Dozens of journalists have been covering this event since it began early this morning.

Abdeslam is the last survivor of the attackers who were responsible for 130 deaths in Paris on November 13, 2015; he was ordered to come to Brussels to answer other criminal charges. After his involvement in the Paris attacks, he returned to Belgium, where he managed to hide out for many months. On March 15, 2016, while police officers were conducting investigations in Rue Dries, they entered a home and were subject to shooting, in which Salah Abdeslam participated. The investigators also found Sofiane Ayari accomplice of such an offense and decided to take them together to the Court.

The trial was due to start on 18 December in Brussels, but it was postponed after Sven Mary, the Salah Abdeslam’s barrister, made an application to postpone. Although Mr. Abdeslam is not supposed to talk about the Paris attacks, this trial is of a major importance. The investigators aim to understand how the attackers and the “teams of death” are/were organized, which can provide significant clues to the investigations on the attacks in Paris. Mr. Abdeslam has always refused to answer questions, but the victims’ families hoped to get some answers.

© AFP/Getty

Both the investigators and the families could, however, be disappointed. It indeed seems Salah Abdeslam will not change his behavior. More precisely, the few remarks he made today do not reflect any will to cooperate. He indeed directly started the audience by saying “I do not want to answer your questions.” after he questioned about his identity.

I am not scared of you, I trust Allah”, “My silence doesn’t make me a guilty person or a criminal, it is my defense”, he later added. He has used this rhetoric throughout his detainment.

His accomplice, Sofiane Ayari, admitted his role but denied the fact he shot policemen. After they were offered the opportunity to answer some questions, the Public prosecutor, Kathleen Grosjean, spoke. “They are trained, they are fighters, they have been immersed in that for weeks”, she said. With regard to the shooting, Mrs. Grojsean pointed out the exceptional danger the policemen faced. “It is a miracle that there was no dead one”, she added.

For attempted murder of police officers, Mrs. Grosjean called for a 20-year jail sentence for both suspects, the maximum sentence for this offense. The trial will continue in the upcoming days.