Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam extradited, charged in France
Abdeslam, 26, was Europe’s most wanted fugitive until his capture in Brussels on March 18 after a four-month manhunt
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam - Europe’s most wanted fugitive until his capture in Belgium last month - has been returned to France and charged with a host of terror-related offenses, his lawyer said Wednesday.
After four months on the run and a month in Belgian custody, the 26-year-old French citizen of Moroccan origin is on his way to Fleury-Merogis, a high-security prison about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Paris, attorney Frank Berton told journalists.
Investigators have said Abdeslam was instrumental in coordinating logistics for the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people at Paris restaurants, a noted music hall and a sports stadium outside the city. ISIS claimed responsibility for the carnage.
Berton indicated that his client wanted to cooperate with the investigation, saying that Abdeslam “volunteered that he would explain himself at some later date.”
Abdeslam was extradited from Belgium to France earlier Wednesday in what Berton described as a “muscular operation” involving an early-morning transfer from his cell in Belgium and a cross-border police helicopter ride.
The express transfer surprised even Berton, who had to rush from Lille to join his client at Paris’ Palace of Justice, arriving in the early afternoon.
The Paris attacks were carried out by three teams of assailants who blew themselves up or sprayed gunfire and Abdeslam’s testimony will likely prove significant to definitively linking the events that night. His brother was one of the suicide bombers.
French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said Abdeslam would be placed in isolation, watched by guards specially trained to deal with “people reputed to be dangerous.”
Georges Salines, whose daughter Lola died at the Bataclan music hall, said Abdeslam’s arrival in Paris had enormous significance for victims of the attacks.
“Up to this point, he is the key actor of the Nov. 13 attacks to be behind bars,” he told BFM television. “I would like to look him in the eye. If I could even talk to him, it would be important to me.”
Geraldine Berger-Stenger, a lawyer for several of the French victims, warned against pinning too much hope on any revelations from Abdeslam.
“I expect he will cooperate but I am very cautious,” she told BFM. Abdeslam is a key witness “but we are perhaps hoping for too much.”