Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam again refuses to answer questions

Salah Abdeslam was not obligated to explain his silence but “obviously” it’s linked to the constant surveillance, his lawyer said.

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PARIS // The only surviving suspect in last November’s attack on Paris refused to speak to a judge Thursday for a third time, in frustration at 24-hour video surveillance of his prison cell.

Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer, Frank Berton, said the judge repeatedly asked questions to no avail on Thursday.

Mr Berton said Mr Abdeslam was not obligated to explain his silence but “obviously” it’s linked to the constant surveillance.

Authorities hope Mr Abdeslam can provide information about the SIL extremist group’s strategies and networks, and identify others who might have had a connection to the November 13 attacks, which killed 130 people. The same network that attacked Paris struck again in Mr Abdeslam’s hometown of Brussels in March, days after he was tracked down in his hideout and arrested.

His Brussels lawyer was present at Thursday’s hearing in Paris.

Mr Abdeslam kept silent at a hearing in May, and refused to attend a hearing in July.

Mr Berton argued that two round-the-clock video cameras in his client’s cell in Fleury-Merogis prison could cause psychological damage, but France’s top administrative authority struck down the lawyer’s request to remove them. Judicial authorities argue the surveillance is needed to ensure he does not commit suicide.

Mr Abdeslam, 26, initially said he wanted to explain his path to radicalisation and his role in the Paris attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, cafes and the national stadium. The other attackers died in suicide bombings or under police fire.

His precise 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.

Mr Abdeslam evaded police for four months, but was arrested in March in the Brussels neighbourhood where he grew up. He was later extradited to France and handed several preliminary terrorism charges.

* Associated Press