The main surviving suspect in November's attacks in Paris, Salah Abdeslam, has been formally charged in Belgium. France has issued a new European arrest warrant to speed his extradition.
A Brussels examining magistrate formally charged French national Salah Abdeslam in connection with the Paris attacks, the defendant's lawyer said on Saturday. He has been charged with "terrorist murder" and "participation in the activities of a terrorist group."
Abdeslam is "cooperating" with the Belgian authorities, according to his attorney Sven Mary (photo). However, the 26-year old was opposing his planned transfer to France "at this stage," Mary added.
"I can tell you that we will refuse the extradition to France," Mary told reporters in Brussels.
The French Justice Ministry said on Saturday that a new European arrest warrant had been issued against Salah Abdeslam to speed extradition. The ministry gave Belgian authorities a maximum deadline of two months, or three if he appeals, to move Abdeslam on to French soil.
The new warrant incorporates new charges arising from the four-month investigation into the attacks. A European arrest warrant is effectively an extradition request.
Abdeslam was arrested following a shootout with the police on Friday. French President Francois Hollande urged the accused's speedy extradition to France.
Although Abdeslam's decision to oppose extradition could delay the legal process, Belgian prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said that "sooner or later he will be extradited to France."
Interpol congratulates Brussels
International police agency Interpol urged its member states to boost border security on Saturday, saying that Abdeslam's capture could encourage other terrorist suspects to try to escape.
"While it is too soon to speculate in which direction the investigation will proceed, anyone linked to Abdeslam will be concerned that their location could be revealed and attempt to run to try and avoid detection," Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock said.
"Belgium is to be congratulated on the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, but this is just one piece in a larger puzzle," he added.
Flemish TV channel VTM reported that Abdeslam would be transferred to a prison in Bruges.
dj/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)