Key Paris attacks suspect ‘radicalized’ after arrest
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