PARIS – The French prosecutor’s office said that key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was transferred to France Wednesday morning and was to go before investigating judges for eventual charges.
Abdeslam, who was arrested in Belgium last month after four months on the run, was wanted in France for his role in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 victims.
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He was the only survivor of the attacks and his testimony would likely prove precious to definitively linking events of the night of carnage when three teams of attackers blew themselves up or sprayed gunfire at Paris night clubs, a noted music hall and the sports stadium outside Paris.
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The transfer of the suspected extremist who had been Europe’s most wanted fugitive was carried out without advance notice and in secrecy. Abdeslam had been held in a high-security cell at a jail in Beveren near Antwerp.
French lawyer Frank Berton, announcing Wednesday he will lead Abdeslam’s defence, described his in a French TV interview as a young man “falling apart” and ready to co-operate. Berton said he was “rather surprised” his client had already arrived.
Berton met Abdeslam in the Belgian prison and told the iTele TV channel that his client wants to talk, telling him “he has things to say, that he wants to explain his route to radicalization” as well as his role (in the attacks) – but not take responsibility for others.
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“That means be judged for facts and acts that he committed but not for what he did not commit simply because he is the only survivor of the attacks,” Berton said.
Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up in the Paris attacks, is charged with attempted murder over a March 15 shootout with police in Brussels. He was arrested three days later.
Belgian police questioned Abdeslam about potential links to the three suicide bombers who attacked the Brussels Airport and subway on March 22, killing 32 – just days after Abdeslam’s arrest.