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Paris Attacks Suspect Refuses to Speak

  • Lisa Bryant

A vehicle believed to transport Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam after his first hearing before French judges departs the courthouse in Paris, France, May 20, 2016.

A vehicle believed to transport Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam after his first hearing before French judges departs the courthouse in Paris, France, May 20, 2016.

Top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam refused to talk during his first appearance before judges at a court in Paris Friday. A French citizen who grew up in Belgium, Abdeslam is charged with terrorism and murder for the November attacks in the French capital that killed 130 people.

Those who wanted to hear Salah Abdeslam explain his actions were disappointed, since he remained silent in court. Abdeslam is believed to be the only direct participant in the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris who is still alive.

His French lawyer, Frank Berton, said Abdeslam exercised his right to remain silent at the morning hearing in a Paris courthouse. He complained that 24-hour video surveillance of Abdeslam's maximum security cell is taking a psychological toll on his client, and called it illegal.

Berton had previously said Abdeslam was eager to talk. He told reporters his client would choose the time to speak.

Abdeslam arrived with a police motorcade for the closed-door hearing early Friday morning. This was his first appearance before judges since his extradition from Belgium last month.

FILE - Police handout photo of Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian national French police arrested in connection with Paris terror attacks. (Police Nationale Handout Photo)

FILE - Police handout photo of Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian national French police arrested in connection with Paris terror attacks. (Police Nationale Handout Photo)

Role in attacks unclear

The 27-year-old Frenchman, born in Morocco, faces a half dozen terrorism charges, as of now.

Abdeslam’s exact role in the Paris attacks is still unclear. The Paris prosecutor claims he abandoned plans to blow himself up like the other attackers, including his older brother, Brahim.

He also has been tied to the bombers who attacked Brussels airport and the Belgian city's subway in March. After four months on the run, he was arrested just before the Brussels bombings.

His Belgian lawyer has described Abdeslam as a moron with the intelligence of an ashtray and little knowledge of Islam. Media leaks of previous interrogations in Belgium suggest Abdeslam has lied and ducked questions.

Jean Reinhart, one of the lawyers for the Paris victims, has described Abdeslam as a manipulator and liar. Anything he says, the lawyer told an interviewer, must be viewed with caution.

French gendarme and police stand at the entrance of the Fleury-Merogis prison near Paris after the arrival of a police convoy believed to be carrying Salah Abdeslam in Paris, May 20, 2016.

French gendarme and police stand at the entrance of the Fleury-Merogis prison near Paris after the arrival of a police convoy believed to be carrying Salah Abdeslam in Paris, May 20, 2016.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported this week that Abdeslam posted an Islamic State group flag on his Facebook page three weeks before the Paris attacks.

RTBF also reported that an informer had tipped off police as early as January 2015 that Abdeslam had been in touch with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, considered a ringleader in November’s attacks. Belgian authorities have acknowledged mistakes were made ahead of both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

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