Salah Abdeslam Trial: first chapter’s closed

Salah Abdeslam and his accomplice, Sofiane Ayari, were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

This is not the end of the story, absolutely not. It is, however, highly symbolic and it is definitely a first step in the trials that  survivor of the Paris attacks will be subject to over the upcoming years.

On 23 April, both Salah Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari were found guilty of “murder attempt of a terrorist nature” and then be sentenced to 20 year’s imprisonment by the Criminal court of Brussels.

Mr Abdeslam and Mr Ayari where charged with a shooting that took place in Brussels (rue Dries) on 15 March 2016. While police officers were conducting investigations in Rue Dries, they entered a home and were subject to shooting, in which Salah Abdeslam was involved.

This sentence is not surprising at all, as all the evidences was on the table. Only a procedural mistake could have made the proceedings inadmissible, as a Flemish judge wrote documents in French, while he was supposed to write them in Dutch, as the Belgian law provides. This argument raised by Sven Mary, the Abdeslam’s lawyer, was however rejected by the Court.

Both defendants refused to attend this audience, after they showed absolutely no will to cooperate with the Federal justice earlier this year. The judges logically complied with the requisitions of the public attorney, who insisted in the terrorist nature of their attack. The civil parties affected will also be granted about EUR 500.000 for the emotional suffering.

Although this sentence was highly expected both by the media and the victims’ families of the Paris attacks, as well as it was welcomed by the civil parties, their is still a long way until Mr. Abdeslam’s case is over. It is firstly about considering appealing that judgement. Sven Mary, will indeed work on the decision to decide what to do in the future. “I am convinced of nothing in this judgement”, he told publicly. Appealing the decision is nevertheless quite uncertain, as the trial in France is the “prior”, he added. Mr. Abdeslam and Mr. Mary should make their decision in the upcoming month.

They will then have a look at France, as the trials will definitely be more subject to media coverage and be symbolic. As the last survivor of the attacks, Mr. Abdeslam will actually be asked to explain the whole process and the planning of the attacks.

Although there is no way not to take him before the courts, there is probably nothing to expect from him over the next years. The only statement he made in Brussels referred to his allegiance for Allah. And two years and a half after the Paris attacks took place, that’s the only words he publicly said. Shedding light on the attacks is still necessary. It is then on major importance to hold the next audiences.