Paris Attacks Suspect Salah Abdeslam Sentenced to 20 Years by Belgium Court

Paris Attacks Suspect Salah Abdeslam Sentenced to 20 Years by Belgium Court

BRUSSELS – A court in Belgium has found 2015 Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam and an accomplice guilty of attempted murder over shots fired at police while trying to avoid arrest in a Brussels suburb.

The court handed both Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari the maximum 20-year sentence.

The court said the “terror character” of the shooting was clearly established in the incident when Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari sought to escape after they were found in a hideout in a Brussels suburb in March 2016. The two were captured three days later.

The incident occurred four months after the Paris attacks at multiple sites that left 130 dead, which led to the manhunt for Abdeslam.

Ayari and Abdeslam were also each fined the equivalent of close to $19,000.

The lawyer for Abdeslam argued he should be acquitted because of a procedural error.

Sven Mary insisted it is unclear whether Abdeslam himself had fired shots at officers trying to break into the hideout.

“If there is doubt, he should have been let go, it’s that simple,” Mary said.

Mary went on to say, it remains to be seen whether Abdeslam, who was born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, will seek to appeal his sentence. He has 30 days to decide.

Court president Luc Hennart said the two chose not to attend the reading of the verdict and sentencing. Abdeslam attended the opening day of the trial in February, but has refused to co-operate since. He is being held in a prison in northern France.

Abdeslam’s brother a suicide bomber

Ayari is a Tunisian who fought with ISIS for a year before heading to Europe. By the time he and Abdeslam began hiding in the upstairs apartment in central Brussels, police had raided more than a dozen locations in Belgium with little to show for it.

On the afternoon of March 15, 2016, they battered down yet another door. A shootout ensued, and Abdeslam and Ayari darted onto a rooftop, broke into a neighbouring apartment and escaped, authorities said.

Mohamed Belkaid, 35, an Algerian national living illegally in Belgium, was killed by police in the shootout.

The capture of Abdeslam and Ayari was followed four days later by an attack on the Belgian capital, with 32 dead in bomb attacks at the airport and on the subway system.

The fugitives left behind a Kalashnikov, ammunition clips, a cellphone and a tunic, and their DNA was everywhere, according to court testimony.

The conclusion of the case at the ornate palace of justice in Brussels took place amid tight security set up by the armed forces and police.

“As all our demands have been met, we can be satisfied, said Maryse Alie, a lawyer for the police. “The judgment said  firing at policemen on duty is a very serious crime.”

It is unclear when Abdeslam, 28, will face trial over the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam’s elder brother, Brahim, a 31-year-old Brussels barkeeper, also said to be involved in the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks, blew himself up outside a Parisian café on that same date.

The Associated Press

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