Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam refused to answer questions at trial

The last surviving member of the jihadist team that attacked Paris, Salah Abdeslam, refused to answer questions in his first interview with a French anti-terror judge on Friday.

AFP May 21, 2016 09:25:31 IST
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam refused to answer questions at trial

The last surviving member of the jihadist team that attacked Paris, Salah Abdeslam, refused to answer questions in his first interview with a French anti-terror judge on Friday.

Authorities had hoped Abdeslam would shed some light on the operational details of the November 13 attacks that killed 130 people, as well as provide clues as to whether other members of the wider jihadist cell are still at large.

But his lawyer Frank Berton said: "He did not want to say anything today."

The 26-year-old was prepared to speak at "a later date", the lawyer added. "We need to give him time."

A source close to the investigation said Abdeslam's silence may have been the result of advice from Mehdi Nemmouche, the man suspected of a shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014.

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam refused to answer questions at trial

Salah Abdeslam's lawyer Frank Berton. Reuters

They were locked up in the same prison in the Belgian city of Bruges after Abdeslam was captured in March and were able to shout to each other from their respective cells, the source said, quoting Belgian prison guards.

Nemmouche reportedly told Abdeslam -- who was being kept in isolation without a television -- about the March 22 attacks in Brussels that left 32 dead and advised him to "keep quiet... because they'll send you to France to be tried."

Abdeslam, who had responded to questions during his first interrogation with Belgian police, has not cooperated since.

He is the only surviving member of the group of Islamic State (IS) gunmen and suicide bombers who attacked multiple night spots around the French capital and tried to breach the Stade de France national stadium.

For months, he was the most-wanted fugitive in Europe until he was tracked down and arrested on March 18 in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek where he grew up.

Transferred to France on April 27, Abdeslam was brought for questioning on Friday in a large black 4x4 vehicle with tinted windows, escorted by heavily armed elite police and a helicopter flying overhead.

The Paris prosecutor's office said: "From the start, he exercised his right to remain silent by refusing to reply to questions from an investigating magistrate."

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