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Lawyers give up defence of Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam

“We said from the beginning… that if our client remained silent we would quit his defence.”

Frank Berton, lawyer of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.
Frank Berton, lawyer of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.
Image: Christophe Ena

THE TWO LAWYERS for the main suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, said today they would no longer defend him given his uncompromising refusal to answer questions about the November massacre.

“We both decided to give up his defence,” lawyer Frank Berton said in a joint interview with France’s BFM TV with fellow lawyer Sven Mary.

“We don’t think that he will speak, and he will use the right to remain silent,” said Berton.

“Given our position, what are we supposed to do? We said from the beginning… that if our client remained silent we would quit his defence,” he added.

Abdeslam is the sole surviving member of the group behind the 13 November carnage at a Paris concert hall, bars and the national stadium that left 130 people dead and scores injured.

France Paris Attacks Toys, photographs, flowers, candles and messages are left at a makeshift memorial next to the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, France. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the atrocity, one of a string of attacks claimed by the jihadists that have put Europe on edge.

Abdeslam has refused to answer questions since being transferred to France from Belgium in April.

Berton said he had seen his client around ten times and had regularly spoken to him on the phone.

He said the 27-year-old Belgian-born French national had written to the authorities to tell them he no longer wanted representation.

Just like ‘social visits’

Mary, his Belgian counsel, said he had felt as if his role was just to “pay social visits to the prison”.

Abdeslam has protested at the round-the-clock CCTV surveillance of his jail cell in Fleury-Merogis prison south of Paris, where he is being held in solitary confinement.

France Attacks Frank Berton, centre, lawyer of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, addresses the media at the Paris courthouse. Source: Geoffroy Van der Hasselt

The CCTV surveillance was the “clear” reason why he was tightlipped, said Berton.

“Authorisation for the surveillance is valid for three months and the minister of justice is going to decide shortly on whether to renew it,” Berton said.

“I sense that he (Abdeslam) will contest this as well.”

After four months on the run, he was arrested on 18 March in Molenbeek, a Brussels neighbourhood notorious for being a hotbed of Islamic extremism, where he grew up.

He was transferred to France to face terror charges on 27 April.

Investigators have yet to pin down his exact role in the worst terror attack in French history.

Abdeslam drove the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France to the stadium and then roamed the city before fleeing to Belgium the next day.

He told investigators there he had also wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France but had changed his mind.

© AFP 2016

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