BRUSSELS - The only surviving suspect of 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, was sentenced to 20 years in jail Monday in Brussels for a separate shootout with Belgian police.
Salah Abdeslam and co-defendant Sofien Ayari were not present when a Brussels judge read out their verdict: 20 years each for terrorism and attempted murder.
The sentences relate to a March 2016 shootout with police, who raided a house where Abdeslam had been hiding, following the Paris attacks the previous November.
Days later, the Belgium-born Abdeslam was arrested, just before deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels. Investigators believe a French-Belgian network with ties to the Islamic State group was behind the Brussels and Paris attacks.
In remarks broadcast by France’s BFMTV, Abdeslam’s lawyer Sven Mary did not rule out chances Abdeslam would appeal the verdict.
Now 28, Abdeslam is in isolation at a maximum security jail outside the French capital. He will also face trial in relation to the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
Other attack suspects, including Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, died either immediately or shortly after the strikes.
Life has returned to normal in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, where Abdeslam grew up and tended bar with his brother.
Thirty-two-year-old Molenbeek resident, Karim, out enjoying the spring sunshine, has little good to say about Abdeslam and other terrorist suspects. They dirtied Molenbeek’s name, he says. He hopes the verdict will allow locals here to turn the page.
Another resident, Abu Bakr Achahboun, is also bitter. He says he considers himself ‘collateral damage’ of both the Paris and Brussels attacks. He was thrown in jail after Abdeslam’s arrest, he says, because he wore a beard and Islamic clothing.
He was eventually released on bail, but he says the investigation into his possible terrorist ties, which he denies, is ongoing. He says peaceful, devout Muslims are paying the price because of Abdeslam.