On Monday, the only surviving Paris Attacks suspect, Salah Abdeslam, began his Belgian trial in connection with the shootout that ended with his March 2016 arrest in Brussels. Abdeslam is, of course, also awaiting trial for the November 2015 coordinated ISIS attacks that killed 130 people in Paris. As the so-called eighth suspect, he’s suspected of helping coordinate travel logistics and scouting locations for those who executed the attacks. Yet while flanked by Belgian special police officers in the courtroom, Abdeslam showed that he had no intention of cooperating with questions about the shootout.
However, Abdeslam, who is a French national, did not stay silent. He refused to stand but spoke out while complaining of an anti-Muslim bias and insisting that his silence should not be interpreted as guilt. Via The Independent:
“My silence does not make me a criminal, it’s my defense. Muslims are judged and treated in the worst of ways, mercilessly. There is no presumption of innocence … I am defending myself by remaining silent … I’m not afraid of you, I’m not afraid of your allies. I place my faith in Allah.”
The BBC notes that Abdeslam didn’t specify who he was speaking to, and he declined to speak any further other than to urge prosecutors to base their trial upon “forensic and tangible evidence” rather than “swagger about to satisfy public opinion.” Specifically in Brussels, he is accused of attempting to murder police during the terror-related shootout as well as illegally possessing weapons. Also on trial is Abdeslam’s suspected accomplice, Sofien Ayari, for similar charges.
Throughout his prosecution in Belgium, Abdeslam has declined to speak with investigators, although Ayari has been much more forthcoming. He not only admitted to being an ISIS fighter in Syria, but he also told police that he and Abdeslam were both on hand during the Brussels shootout.
Abdeslam won’t go on trial in France until sometime in 2019.