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article imageTerror suspect Abdeslam wants to attend trial in Belgium: prosecutors

By AFP     Sep 26, 2017 in World

Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam wants to appear in person at his trial for a shootout with police in Brussels last year that led to his capture after four months on the run, Belgian prosecutors said Tuesday.

Abdeslam, the only surviving alleged member of the Islamist gang that murdered 130 people in the French capital in November 2015, was arrested three days after a gun battle with police in March last year that left several officers wounded.

Belgian judges have ordered the 28-year-old, who is in custody in France awaiting trial for the Paris attacks, to stand trial in Brussels along with his alleged accomplice Sofiane Ayari, with the case due to start on December 18.

"Contrary to what was thought, he has said he wants to come and attend his trial," a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor's office told AFP.

Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national, is charged with "attempted murder of several police officers in a terrorist context" over the shootout at a flat in the Forest district of Brussels.

He and Ayari fled the flat but police caught up with them in the gritty Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, shooting Abdeslam in the leg.

Investigators suspect that Abdeslam's arrest precipitated the suicide bombings targeting Brussels airport and metro system four days later by jihadists who feared that they too would be captured before they could carry out their plot.

The Islamic State group claimed the Paris and Brussels attacks and French and Belgian police believe the same terror cell plotted both assaults.

A lawyer in the Brussels case told AFP that hearings are scheduled over four days, ending on December 22.

Eric Van Der Sypt, spokesman for Belgian prosecutors, said the task now was to arrange the conditions -- both legal and in terms of security -- for Abdeslam's transfer to Belgium.

He could be the subject of a loan to Belgium during the trial, but "the French will want guarantees about his return", Van Der Sypt added.

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