On trial, suspect in Paris attacks claims 'anti-Muslim bias'
Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving terrorist who helped carry out several attacks in Paris in November of 2015 that killed 130 people, went on trial in a Belgium court on charges relating to his flight from authorities in France.
Abdeslam is accused of possessing illegal weapons and of the attempted murder of police officers after he was cornered in the Molenbeek section of Brussels. He had been the subject of one of the most intense manhunts in Europe's history and was on the run for four months before his capture. He is not expected to go on trial in France for his role in the Paris attacks until 2020.
At his trial, Abdeslam said he will not respond to questions from the judge.
My silence does not make me a criminal, it's my defence," he said.
Abdeslam, 28, claimed that Muslims were "judged mercilessly", and said he was placing his trust in Allah and the Prophet Mohammed.
"I am not afraid of you, I am not afraid of your allies," he added, without making clear who he meant.
He urged the judges to consider "scientific and tangible proof" when ruling on his case, saying they would otherwise "give up their function to the media".
The terror suspect has refused to speak to investigators since his March 2016 arrest.
Abdeslam better hope that authorities do not rely on scientific proof. If they do, they have him dead to rights on all charges.
The circumstances of his capture are pretty straightforward. After police raided an apartment in Molenbeek discovering a cache of weapons, the trail led to a basement not far away. Abdeslam made a run for it. In a shootout with police, he was slightly wounded.
Molenbeek is a hotbed of radical Islam even today. Any terrorist hiding out there can count on most of the population protecting them.
The unusual circumstances of Abdeslam being tried in both Belgium and France raised questions about where he would be permanently imprisoned. The terrorist is driven from a French jail just over the Belgium border to his trial every day and then returned at night. The BBC is reporting that 200 Belgium police have surrounded the courthouse to protect the proceedings.
Some in the European press have made a big deal out of the fact that Abdeslam and his brother, who died after blowing himself up in the Paris attacks, were little more than common criminals with long records that included drug and burglary But there was nothing "common" about their attacks that horrible night in Paris. They shot up a concert hall, mowing down dozens of innocents as they tried to escape, as well as blowing up a cafe and shooting up several bars. Three of their terrorist comrades tried to enter a soccer stadium, but ended up being denied and blowing themselves up outside the venue.
Abdeslam claims that Muslims are judged "mercilessly." In his case, let's hope that's one thing he's right about.