Lawyers for Paris at­tacks sus­pect stop de­fend­ing him

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

The lawyers for the only sur­viv­ing sus­pect in last Novem­ber’s at­tack in Paris say they will no longer de­fend him be­cause he re­fuses to speak.

Frank Berton and Sven Mary said they’ve de­cided to stop rep­re­sent­ing Salah Ab­deslam, who has cho­sen to re­main silent in a protest against his prison con­di­tions, in­clud­ing the 24hour video sur­veil­lance of his cell.

Berton told a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day that Ab­deslam, who was ar­rested in Brus­sels in March then trans­ferred to France, was psy­cho­log­i­cally dam­aged by his de­ten­tion at Fleury-Mer­o­gis prison.

“I’ve been con­vinced for months that he is iso­lat­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing him­self, he is tak­ing his video sur­veil­lance very badly,” Berton said. “This is not black­mail, it’s just the re­al­ity of his psy­cho­log­i­cal and psy­chic state. The prob­lem is re­lated to his soli­tary con­fine­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to Berton, Ab­deslam was ini­tially will­ing to speak and the lawyer urged French au­thor­i­ties to soften their tough ap­proach.

Au­thor­i­ties hope Ab­deslam can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about the Is­lamic State group’s strate­gies and net­works, and iden­tify oth­ers who might have had a con­nec­tion to the Nov. 13 at­tacks, which killed 130 peo­ple.

The same net­work that at­tacked Paris struck again in Ab­deslam’s home­town of Brus­sels in March, days after he was ar­rested in his hide­out.

Berton pre­vi­ously ar­gued that two round-the-clock video cam­eras in Ab­deslam’s could cause psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age, but France’s top ad­min­is­tra­tive au-

thor­ity re­jected the lawyer’s re­quest to re­move them. Ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties ar­gue the sur­veil­lance is needed to en­sure he doesn’t com­mit sui­cide.

“He is de­mo­nized be­cause he is the only sur­viv­ing sus­pect,” Berton said. “There is no other in­mate in France de­tained in the same con­di­tions.”

Ab­deslam, 27, had ini­tially said he wanted to ex­plain his path to rad­i­cal­iza­tion and his role in the Nov. 13 at­tacks on the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall, cafes and the na­tional sta­dium. The other at­tack­ers died in sui­cide bomb­ings or un­der po­lice fire.

Ab­deslam’s role in the at­tacks has never been clear. The Paris prose­cu­tor has said he was equipped as a sui­cide bomber that night, but aban­doned his plans and fled. Ab­deslam evaded po­lice for four months, but was ar­rested in the Brus­sels neigh­bor­hood where he grew up. He was later ex­tra­dited to France and faces sev­eral pre­lim­i­nary ter­ror­ism charges.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to try to de­fend some­one who re­fuses to de­fend him­self. He has de­cided not to de­fend him­self,” Berton in­sisted, adding that Ab­deslam’s si­lence will be detri­men­tal to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. “He is go­ing to be ac­cused of all crimes and will be re­spon­si­ble for all .... There will be a trial, but what for? The truth never came out of si­lence.”

Berton added that Ab­deslam re­fused to speak to a judge twice since his trans­fer to France and skipped an­other hear­ing.

“When you have the feel­ing of be­ing there to make so­cial vis­its to the prison, a de­ci­sion has to be made,” Mary told BFM-TV.

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