Convicted Paris terrorist faces trial for attack in Belgium

Trial is linked to attack in Belgium four days after Salah Abdeslam was arrested

A court sketch of Salah Abdeslam, who will now face trial in Belgium where he lived before the Paris attack. AFP
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Convicted Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the cell that killed 130 people, has been transferred to Belgium to face new charges connected to a different attack.

Abdeslam, 32, a Frenchman of Moroccan origin, was given a whole-life sentence after a trial in France for his involvement in the Paris attacks.

He will be tried in Belgium for his alleged involvement in the March 2016 attacks, which were carried out by the same cell responsible for the Paris attacks.

The attacks in Belgium, which killed 32 people at the national airport and in a Brussels metro station, were also claimed by ISIS and occurred four days after Abdeslam was arrested.

Abdeslam, who was born in Belgium and used to live in Brussels, was flown from Fleury-Merogis prison south of Paris to Ittre prison in Belgium, between the Belgian capital and Charleroi.

He will be held in prison in Belgium until his trial, which is scheduled to start on October 10.

He was handed over to France to face trial there over the 2015 attacks at the Bataclan concert hall and other venues.

On June 30, he was sentenced to life in prison with only a tiny chance of parole after 30 years, the toughest possible punishment under French law.

Police and military on duty in Brussels after the attack. EPA

He did not appeal against the sentence after the trial, which was the biggest in modern French history.

The trial opened on September 8 and was held in a specially built courtroom in central Paris, with chairs and benches for 550 people.

Nineteen other people, 10 of whom are in custody, were also found guilty of crimes including helping to provide the attackers with weapons or cars and planning to take part in the attack.

The Bataclan music hall, six bars and restaurants and the perimeter of the Stade de France sports arena were hit in attacks in the French capital.

Abdeslam told the court of his role in the attacks, which sent shock waves through France and Europe.

During a meeting in Belgium, where the ISIS cell was based, he had been asked to take part in the attacks two days beforehand by the ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a long-time friend.

During the assault, which was co-ordinated from Syria, Abdeslam's role was to blow himself up in a cafe in a fashionable area of the 18th district of north Paris.

Before this, he would drive three suicide bombers to the Stade de France where France were playing Germany in a football match attended by president Francois Hollande.

In the end, he did not explode his vest. He told the court he had a change of heart, while police said the vest malfunctioned.

Crowds had gathered outside the central Paris court to hear the verdict.

Updated: July 14, 2022, 10:36 AM