Frank Berton has stood down as lawyer for Salah Abdeslam. Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters
Frank Berton has stood down as lawyer for Salah Abdeslam. Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters

Lawyers ‘will not defend’ main Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam



PARIS // 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 have decided to stop representing Salah Abdeslam, who has chosen to remain silent in a protest against his prison conditions, which includes the 24-hour video surveillance of his cell.

Mr Berton said on Wednesday 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 radicalising himself, he is taking his video surveillance very badly,” Mr 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 Mr Berton, Abdeslam was initially willing to speak and the lawyer urged French authorities to soften their tough approach.

Authorities hope the key suspect of the November 13 attacks can provide information about ISIL’s strategies and networks, and identify others who might have had a connection to the attacks which killed 130 people.

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

Mr Berton previously argued that two round-the-clock video cameras in Abdeslam’s could cause psychological damage, but France’s top administrative authority rejected the lawyer’s request to remove them. Judicial authorities argue the surveillance is needed to ensure he does not commit suicide.

“He is demonised because he is the only surviving suspect,” Mr 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 radicalisation and his role in the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, cafes and the national stadium. The other attackers died in suicide bombings or under police fire.

His 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,” Mr 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.”

Mr 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,” Mr Mary said.

* Associated Press

 

 

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Commission caps

For life insurance products with a savings component, Peter Hodgins of Clyde & Co said different caps apply to the saving and protection elements:

• For the saving component, a cap of 4.5 per cent of the annualised premium per year (which may not exceed 90 per cent of the annualised premium over the policy term). 

• On the protection component, there is a cap  of 10 per cent of the annualised premium per year (which may not exceed 160 per cent of the annualised premium over the policy term).

• Indemnity commission, the amount of commission that can be advanced to a product salesperson, can be 50 per cent of the annualised premium for the first year or 50 per cent of the total commissions on the policy calculated. 

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Disclosure

Customers must now be provided with a full illustration of the product they are buying to ensure they understand the potential returns on savings products as well as the effects of any charges. There is also a “free-look” period of 30 days, where insurers must provide a full refund if the buyer wishes to cancel the policy.

“The illustration should provide for at least two scenarios to illustrate the performance of the product,” said Mr Hodgins. “All illustrations are required to be signed by the customer.”

Another illustration must outline surrender charges to ensure they understand the costs of exiting a fixed-term product early.

Illustrations must also be kept updatedand insurers must provide information on the top five investment funds available annually, including at least five years' performance data.

“This may be segregated based on the risk appetite of the customer (in which case, the top five funds for each segment must be provided),” said Mr Hodgins.

Product providers must also disclose the ratio of protection benefit to savings benefits. If a protection benefit ratio is less than 10 per cent "the product must carry a warning stating that it has limited or no protection benefit" Mr Hodgins added.

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