Hundreds of armed police to guard Brussels court as Paris attacks suspect goes on trial over shootout

Home / Hundreds of armed police to guard Brussels court as Paris attacks suspect goes on trial over shootout

Hundreds of armed police are guarding the Brussels court where the trial of Salah Abdeslam, the prime Paris attacks suspect, opens on Monday following his transfer in secrecy from a prison outside the French capital.

Abdeslam, a French national of Moroccan descent, is being tried on charges of terrorism, possession of weapons and attempted murder during a shootout with police in Brussels three days before his arrest in March 2016. He will face another trial in France at a later date for his alleged role in the November 2015 Paris attacks.

During the court hearings in Brussels, expected to last four days, Abdeslam, 28, is being held at a jail in northern France near the Belgian border from where he can more easily be brought to court by helicopter or road.

The exact times of the transfers and the method of transport are to be kept secret. Hundreds of elite officers have been deployed to escort him and guard the route. Another 200 officers are posted inside the court building in case of an attempted attack. Security has also reportedly been stepped up across Brussels.

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Abdeslam’s capture in Brussels after four months on the run following the slaughter of 130 people in Paris is believed to have prompted his jihadist cell to bring forward a plan for attacks in the Belgian capital. Four days after his arrest, suicide bombings killed 32 people in Brussels.

A young girl lights a candle at the Place de la Bourse following attacks on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium.Credit:
 Getty Images

Investigators believe Abdeslam survived the Paris attacks because his suicide vest failed to detonate.

He is being tried with another jihadist suspect, Sofien Ayari, a Tunisian who was among four other people arrested with him. Ayari, 24, is also accused of shooting at police.

He was in possession of a fake Syrian passport when captured and is believed to have entered Europe with migrants via the Greek island of Leros two months before the Paris attacks.

The alleged Paris attacks mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national shot dead in a police raid in Paris three days after the Bataclan massacre and other coordinated attacks in the French capital, is also thought to have taken the same route as he returned from Syria.

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