PARIS - Families and lawyers of Paris attacks victims say they are disappointed at the news that Salah Abdeslam’s legal defense has quit, as the top surviving suspect of last November's strikes remains silent before his interrogators.
Abdeslam’s French and Belgian lawyers say they notified their client last week they were abandoning his legal defense.
French lawyer Frank Berton told French media he and his Belgian counterpart, Sven Mary, were convinced Abdeslam will not talk to investigating magistrates until his 24-hour video surveillance is lifted in his Paris-area prison cell.
That is unlikely to happen, making the way forward difficult. While Abdeslam has the right to remain silent, he will need a legal defense when he eventually goes on trial.
The top surviving suspect of last November’s Paris attacks, Abdeslam was arrested in Belgium earlier this year after months on the run. His brother Brahim blew himself up during the attacks that killed 130 people. Abdeslam's exact role in the attack remains unclear.
Victims association head Georges Salines says he is disappointed, but not surprised, at Abdeslam's silence.
Salines, who lost his daughter in the attack, says he believes the investigation will reveal the truth anyway. In some ways, he says, it will be a relief if Abdeslam does not talk and try to minimize his role.
Since January 2015, more than 230 people have been killed in terrorist strikes in France.
This Friday, survivors and families of last July's attacks in Nice, which killed 86 people, will gather there to remember the victims. Officials say other planned attacks have since been thwarted, including one by a female jihadist cell that was broken up last month.
France's Le Journal du Dimanche reports 1,500 jihadist suspects are under special police surveillance.