The only known surviving suspect of the Islamic State terror cell behind the deadly 2015 attacks on Paris was defiant in his first public appearance Monday in a Belgian courtroom.
“I do not wish to respond to any questions. I was asked to come. I came,” Salah Abdeslam said in French, as translated by the AP and Reuters. “I defend myself by staying silent.”
When asked why he wouldn’t stand, Abdeslam responded, according to reports: “I’m tired, I did not sleep.”
He claimed he and others who share his Muslim faith are denied a presumption of innocence. “Muslims are judged and treated in the worst kind of ways,” he said. “They are judged without mercy.”
Abdeslam said he is placing his trust in Allah.
The 28-year-old French citizen has been imprisoned in France in connection with the suicide bombings and mass shootings on November 13, 2015 that left at least 130 people dead at a soccer match, cafes and the Bataclan concert hall.
In Brussels, he is facing separate attempted murder charges stemming from a 2016 police shootout four months after the Paris attacks. Police searching for him came across his hideout with two other suspects in a Brussels apartment. Three officers were wounded and one suspect was killed in the ensuing spray of gunfire.
Abdeslam, who was raised in Brussels, was arrested a few days later in the immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek.
He will be shuttled back-and-forth for his Brussels trial from France.
On Monday he was flanked by masked guards in the Palais de Justice courtroom, where he is facing attempted murder charges with co-defendant Sofien Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian, and his suspected accomplice in the shootout.
Abdeslam is not expected to face trial in France until next year at the earliest, reports The New York Times, in an indication of the vast network of suspected accomplices and evidence investigators must sift through related to the Paris attacks.
Abdeslam’s brother, Brahim, was among the attackers killed after detonating a suicide bomb outside a cafe.
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