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Terrorism

Paris attacks: Lawyers of Salah Abdeslam will no longer defend him

Lawyers for the sole surviving suspect amongst Islamists responsible for killing 130 people in Paris last November have said they will no longer defend him. Suspect Salah Abdeslam is refusing to speak.

Salah Abdeslam, who has been held in solitary confinement near Paris since he was captured earlier this year, will use his right to remain silent, his lawyers Frank Berton and Sven Mary said on "BFM Television" on Wednesday.

"We are convinced, and he told us so, that he will not talk and will use his right to remain silent," Berton said.

"What do you want us to do in our position? I've said it from the start, if my client remains silent, I'll drop his defense," he added.

Abdeslam previously refused to answer questions from the anti-terrorist magistrate investigating the Paris attacks and also exercised his right to remain silent during questioning.

Specific role unclear

Charged with terrorist murder, Abdeslam has been held in solitary confinement since April 27 in a prison south of Paris. The 27-year-old has also been linked to several jihadists, directly involved in the Brussels attacks on March 22 this year.

Lawyer Frank Berton

Lawyer Frank Berton has said he and fellow attorney Sven Mary will no longer defend Salah Abdeslam

Berton said on Wednesday that Abdeslam was being "driven crazy" by the 24-hours-a-day camera monitoring in his high-security jail.

In July, Abdeslam appealed to France's State Council to turn off the CCTV cameras. The highest administrative court dismissed the case, however, saying that "the exceptional nature of terrorist acts" for which he is charged "mean that all precautions should be taken."

On the night of November 13, authorities believe that Abdeslam transported three suicide bombers to Saint-Denis, where  France's national football team was playing Germany at Stade de France stadium. Almost a year on since the Islamist attacks, however, his specific role remains unclear. 

After fleeing France the day after the attacks, Abdeslam arrested in Belgium four months later.

Belgian police 'missed opportunities'

Belgian daily "De Tijd" reported on Saturday that Belgian police missed 13 opportunities to unmask the perpetrators of the deadly Paris attacks before the night of November 13.

The internal police report, leaked to the "De Tijd," found that as early as February 2015, Belgian authorities were in possession of phone records linking known terrorist suspects with Abdeslam.

Of the 13 missed chances, six were due to staffing shortages, the report said.

Police also reportedly ignored a request from Spanish authorities for more information on Abdeslam's older brother Brahim who travelled to Spain in March 2015. Eight months after that visit, Brahim blew himself up in a Paris cafe in the November attacks.

The final report will now be handed to a special commission in Brussels which is tasked with improving the country's response to terrorism.

ksb/kl (Reuters, AFP)

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