Silence in Court: A Political Stand by Paris Terrorism Defendant

He and one other man, Sofian Ayeri, are being prosecuted in the capturing and wounding of 4 Belgian and French law enforcement officials whereas Mr. Abdeslam was on the run in March 2016.

The begin of their trial this week was removed from the primary occasion in the Paris and Brussels assaults — the trials pertaining to the central plot are nonetheless greater than a 12 months away. But Mr. Abdeslam’s few phrases and notable silence might provide a foretaste of an unsatisfying highway forward for the authorities and victims’ households and mates.

The strategy seemed to be in retaining with that of a number of different defendants charged in assaults claimed by the Islamic State in current years.

They embrace Ayoub el Khazzani, who’s accused of making an attempt to open hearth in a Thalys practice certain from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015, and Mehdi Nemmouche, held in the deadly capturing of 4 individuals on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014.

Why refuse to take part when it’s the finest hope of lowering your sentence and even getting off altogether? Mr. Abdeslam’s lawyer made a case for his acquittal on a number of grounds, together with the shortage of proof that he pulled the set off.

“A person who is accused of a crime has everything to lose by remaining silent,” stated Francis Vuillemin, the protection lawyer for Mr. Nemmouche in France, the place his shopper is accused of crimes unrelated to the Jewish museum killings; Mr. Vuillemin additionally represented the terrorist referred to as Carlos the Jackal.

“Because for an accused the best lawyer is not the one in the black robe, but the man himself,” he stated, including that he’s the one who can finest persuade a judicial tribunal of his innocence.

Mr. Vuillemin stated that though Mr. Nemmouche might not have helped Belgian investigators, he expects him to testify in trials he faces in France in reference to the jailing of 4 French hostages in Syria. Mr. Vuillemin stated that usually defendants select to not communicate to investigators, however do communicate at their trials.

However, Mr. Abdesalam’s lawyer, Sven Mary, stated that whereas his shopper was in jail in Belgium quickly after his seize, he was in a cell adjoining to Mr. Nemmouche. He believes the 2 communicated and which will have led Mr. Abdeslam to vary from initially being keen to speak with prosecutors to refusing to take action.

Salah Abdeslam

Belgian Federal Police, through European Pressphoto Agency

“Isolation in Belgium doesn’t mean you don’t have windows,” Mr. Mary stated.

“When you have a neighbor, they can talk to each other,” he added. “I don’t think it was the best idea to put him next to someone like that. What I heard from different people was that he played a role in the sudden change in Saleh Abdeslam.”

Other legal professionals and specialists targeted extra on Mr. Abdeslam’s self-recusal as a political act of defiance, geared toward a selected viewers.

It can also be one with worrisome implications for each France and Belgium, the place his denigration of the concept of an neutral judiciary performs into the already eager sense that many Muslims have that the system is stacked towards them.

“It’s one way to reach out to those Muslims who feel rejected by system in the first place,” stated Didier Leroy, a analysis fellow on the Royal Higher Institute for Defense, who has additionally studied the views of younger Muslim extremists.

Mr. Leroy stated that at this level, the jihadist, extremist “family” is de facto the one one he has. “He’s trying to assure his own survival in that milieu — it is all about belonging to a group. What else does he have now?”

“Although he wasn’t a particularly religious guy as far as we know, his major focus is to keep the reputation and status in this family that he’s part of or even, by rejecting justice here in Belgium, make himself more significant,” Mr. Leroy stated.

All the legal professionals interviewed in addition to Mr. Leroy prefaced their remarks by saying that in need of being inside Mr. Abdeslam’s head, it was unimaginable to say precisely what he was pondering.

But, then, there was another excuse for silence, identified Antoine Vey, who lately served as a protection lawyer for Abdelkader Merah, the brother of Mohammed Merah, who attacked French troopers and a Jewish college in 2012, in the Toulouse space.

There is a protracted dissident custom of refusing to acknowledge France’s justice system, relationship no less than to the Algerian battle, which resulted in the nation’s independence from France, Mr. Vey stated.

He added that whereas some defendants remained silent in order to not incriminate themselves, others did so “in keeping with the idea that the trial was a political platform for contesting the authority of the law and the judges.”

“Notably in all the trials that were held during the war in Algeria, those who wanted independence used the trial to explain to the public that they did not recognize French law and that the judges were not judges.”

It additionally appeared that Mr. Abdeslam was pointing to a line of argument and a mind-set about justice that may be very a lot in the ideological framework of extremist Islamists: True justice might be carried out solely by God, and its guidelines are in the Quran. It follows, then, secular court docket can solely be a political discussion board.

“Salah Abdeslam clearly said one thing,” stated Christian Etelin, a French lawyer who represented Mohammed Merah when he was younger and lately represented a person who was discovered responsible of offering Mr. Merah with the semiautomatic weapon he used in the 2012 assaults.

“He said that he does not have to account for himself other than to God,” Mr. Etelin stated. “As a consequence, the justice of men has no ability to understand his approach and judge it.”

Mr. Abdeslam’s final phrases to the court docket earlier than falling silent have been: “I trust in Allah, that is all. I am only accountable to God.”

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