Belgian court should acquit Paris attacks suspect: lawyer

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 08, 2018 9:02 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect of the 2015 Paris attacks, should be acquitted of a attempted murder during a shootout with police in Brussels in 2016 because of procedural errors, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Lawyer Sven Mary told a Belgian court that the principal error was prosecutors' use of the French language, rather than Dutch.

"It is a real problem which should make you declare the proceedings void," Mary told the judge.

Belgium is split along linguistic lines with Dutch speakers in the north and French speakers in the south and the choice of language in trials, as well as in politics, is based on a complicated web of legal texts.

Prosecutors in Belgium have charged Abdeslam, 28, with attempted murder over the Brussels shootout, days before his arrest, and called for a jail term of 20 years.

He still faces a trial in France over the 2015 Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed.

By the time of the shootout in March 2016, Abdeslam had been hiding out in Brussels for four months after fleeing Paris on the night of the November 2015 attacks. His elder brother was one of the attackers.

Abdeslam refused to answer the judge's questions on the opening day of the Brussels trial on Monday and declined to appear in court on Thursday.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)