Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam refuses to address Belgian Court
By Stefan Bos
Salah Abdeslam, who is on trial in his hometown of Brussels over a gunfight with police, declined to rise for the court or even answer questions about his alleged actions.
His refusal to cooperate overshadowed his first appearance in public since he was detained nearly two years ago.
The 28-year-old Abdeslam arrived in the Belgian capital on Monday morning after being transferred from a prison in France.
French prosecutors believe he played a vital role in the Paris attacks in November 2015 when gunmen and suicide bombers targeted a concert hall, stadium, restaurants and bars, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds more.
The trial in Belgium relates to the 2016 shooting in Brussels, some four months after the Paris attacks. Abdeslam and two suspects were hiding in an apartment when police arrived for a routine search.
Three officers were wounded in the shootout that followed, and one suspect was killed. Abdeslam was captured a few days later in the flashpoint Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek.
He is tried alongside a second defendant, Sofiane Ayari, about the shootout. Both men could face up to 20 years imprisonment for that attack alone.
But on Monday, Abdeslam made clear that he would not cooperate with the court saying: "My silence does not make me a criminal, it's my defense."
He claimed that Muslims were "judged and treated in the worst of ways, mercilessly" and said he was placing his trust in Allah.
That came as a setback for victims of the attacks in Paris and Belgium who had come to hear him.
"We hope that he will manifest himself and speak. We want to see how is doing" said a French-speaking elderly man.
But Abdeslam refused to explain his alleged actions in court. In a statement, he said: "I am not afraid of you, I am not afraid of your allies."
He urged the prosecution to base its case on "forensic and tangible evidence", and not to "swagger about to satisfy public opinion".