Key Paris at­tacks sus­pect ‘rad­i­cal­ized’ af­ter ar­rest

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The main Paris at­tacks sus­pect, Salah Ab­deslam, has be­come even more rad­i­cal­ized since be­ing im­pris­oned for his pre­sumed role in the slaugh­ter of 130 peo­ple a year ago, his for­mer lawyer has said. “He’s got a beard, he’s be­come a true fun­da­men­tal­ist whereas be­fore he was a kid wear­ing Nike train­ers,” Bel­gian lawyer Sven Mary told Dutch news­pa­per De Volk­skrant’s yes­ter­day edi­tion.

Bel­gian-born French national Ab­deslam is be­lieved to be the only ji­hadist sur­vivor of the Novem­ber 13 at­tacks in the French cap­i­tal that Bel­gian au­thor­i­ties claim were or­ches­trated by the Is­lamic State high com­mand.

Af­ter four months on the run, the 27year-old of Moroc­can origin was ar­rested in Brus­sels in March and sub­se­quently trans­ferred to France in April. Lawyer Mary said Ab­deslam’s de­ten­tion con­di­tions at a prison in the Parisian sub­urb of FleuryMer­o­gis amounted to “psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture” and had con­trib­uted to his ap­par­ent rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

He is kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment and sub­jected to round-the-clock video sur­veil­lance. Ab­deslam is ac­cused of hav­ing pro­vided lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to the seven ji­hadists who died at the var­i­ous scenes of the ter­ror at­tacks: the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall, the Stade de France national stadium and sev­eral bars and restau­rants in cen­tral Paris.

In July, his lawyers had at­tempted un­suc­cess­fully to end the con­stant sur­veil­lance, but au­thor­i­ties had deemed the “ex­cep­tional char­ac­ter of ter­ror­ist acts” as jus­ti­fy­ing that “all pre­cau­tions are taken”.

Last month both Mary and an­other lawyer, Frank Ber­ton, gave up de­fend­ing Ab­deslam over his re­fusal to an­swer in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ ques­tions since be­ing trans­ferred to France. Mary said then that the lawyers felt they were do­ing noth­ing more than pay­ing “so­cial vis­its to the prison” and had de­cided to quit the de­fense. Ab­deslam’s brother Mo­hamed last month urged him to speak to French au­thor­i­ties but also said he felt Salah “is more rad­i­cal­ized now, rather than de-rad­i­cal­ized”.

Mean­while, ji­hadist Ous­sama Atar de­nied in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ claims that he was the “mas­ter­mind” of the Brus­sels at­tacks in March that left 32 dead in a let­ter to his mother, a Bel­gian news­pa­per re­ported yes­ter­day.

La Derniere Heure (DH) pub­lished the en­tire let­ter-with­out ex­plain­ing how it ob­tained a copy-that the daily said came from the 32-year-old Moroc­can-Bel­gian, whoi is be­lieved to be based in Syria.

“No, I am not the men­tor or mas­ter­mind who di­rected the Brus­sels at­tacks and I wasn’t aware of what Brahim and Khalid were plan­ning (may Al­lah have mercy on them),” Atar wrote, re­fer­ring to the El Bakraoui brothers, dis­tant cousins who were two of the three sui­cide bombers re­spon­si­ble for the Brus­sels at­tacks. Atar is be­lieved to be a mem­ber of the Is­lamic State group and is also sus­pected of be­ing a key plot­ter of the Paris at­tacks in Novem­ber last year.

The let­ter, sent to Atar’s mother Ma­lika Ben­hat­tal af­ter con­nect­ing with one of his sis­ters through Face­book, made no men­tion of the Paris at­tacks. In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve that Atar, us­ing the pseu­do­nym Abou Ah­mad, was one of the com­man­ders of the at­tacks both in Brus­sels and in Paris, which will mark the first an­niver­sary of the mas­sacre that killed 130 peo­ple to­day.

Re­gard­ing his cur­rent where­abouts, he told his mother he was not in Europe and had no plans to re­turn as he blasted the “lies” said about him and the “war” against his fam­ily.

“No, I am not Osama bin Laden, nor the right hand of (IS chief) Abu Bakr Bagh­dadi,” Atar wrote, adding that “at no time” did he meet the lat­ter “in prison or else­where”. He has been on the radar of Euro­pean se­cu­rity forces for more than a decade. Af­ter be­ing ar­rested in Iraq in 2004 fol­low­ing the US-led in­va­sion of the coun­try, he spent time in var­i­ous jails in­clud­ing the no­to­ri­ous Abu Ghraib prison used by Amer­i­can forces. — AFP

BORDEAUX: For­mer French pres­i­dent and can­di­date for the right-wing Les Repub­li­cains (LR) party pri­maries ahead of the 2017 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Ni­co­las Sarkozy speaks as (front row, 2L) For­mer French min­is­ter and Mayor of Troyes Fran­cois Baroin lis­tens, dur­ing a cam­paign rally in Bordeaux, south­west­ern France. — AFP

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