Suspect in Paris attacks refuses to answer questions in court

Suspect-in-Paris-attacks-refuses-to-answer-questions-in-court.  PARIS,  The last known survivor of the suspected terrorist cell behind the attacks in Paris last November refused to answer questions when he appeared in court Friday.

Suspected Islamic State terrorist Salah Abdeslam stayed silent in his first appearance in a Paris court. Photo courtesy of Belgium Police.

Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer, Frank Berton, said that his client was exercising his right to silence.

The 26-year-old French citizen of Moroccan origin is being held in the high-security Fleury-Merogis jail just outside Paris.

He was transported amid high security to be questioned by judges at the Palace of Justice in the center of Paris. The session was not open to the public.

France’s inquisitorial justice system means judges are responsible for investigating the case and questioning suspects ahead of any trial.

It was Abdeslam’s first appearance in a French court since his extradition from Belgium last month.

But the hearing ended abruptly when it became clear that Abdeslam was not willing to talk.

“He did not want to say anything,” Berton said after the hearing, adding that his client was “particularly disturbed” by video surveillance in his cell.

“He can’t tolerate being watched on video 24 hours a day. Psychologically that makes things difficult,” Berton said. “This does not lead him to co-operate with legal proceedings.”

When Abdeslam was extradited April 27, Berton announced that his client wanted to talk to investigators and explain his path to radicalization.

Abdeslam is thought to have played a key role in planning the coordinated attacks by the Islamic State on Nov. 13, in which 130 people were killed.

He was Europe’s most wanted fugitive until his capture in Brussels in March after a four-month manhunt.

A lawyer representing some of the victims’ families, Gerard Chemla, said Abdeslam had a moral duty to help the authorities.

“If this man has a conscience, he will co-operate with judicial authorities and will make it so that what happened doesn’t happen again,” Mr Chemla said before the start of the hearing.

Abdeslam’s exact role in the attacks has never been clear. The Paris prosecutor has said he was equipped as a suicide bomber, but abandoned his plans and fled to Belgium, where he had grown up. Abdeslam’s older brother blew himself up at a cafe during the Paris attacks.

By Martin Smith   |