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Belgian court to give verdict on Paris suspect Abdeslam on April 23


AFP Brussels
A Belgian court said today it will give its verdict on April 23 in the trial of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam over a shootout in Brussels that led to his capture.
The court made the announcement after hearing an application from terror victims to be named as civil parties in the case against Abdeslam over the March 2016 gun battle.
"The verdict will be handed down on April 23," presiding judge Marie-France Keutgen told the court.
Islamist gunman Radouane Lakdim, who shot dead four people last week in southern France, including a heroic policeman killed after taking the place of a hostage, said during the siege he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State group and demanded the release of Abdeslam.
Prosecutors have recommended a maximum of 20 years in prison for Abdeslam, 28, and Soufiane Ayari, his 24-year-old co-defendant in the gun battle nearly two years ago that led to their capture in the Belgian capital.
Seven days later, suicide bombers from a cell linked to the Paris attacks killed 32 people and injured hundreds more at Brussels airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital.
The pair are being tried on terrorist-related charges of attempted murder and possession of banned weapons over the shootout on March 15, 2016 in which three police officers were wounded.
Neither defendant appeared in court on Thursday.
During the second day of his trial on February 8, Abdeslam refused to come to the Brussels court, after accusing judges on the first day of the trial four days earlier of being anti-Muslim and proclaiming he would only put his "trust in Allah".
In Abdeslam's absence, lawyer Sven Mary sought the case's dismissal over a technicality over how the judges were named to investigate the gun battle.
Abdeslam, who is being held in a prison near Paris, is the last surviving suspect from the Islamic State group cell behind the November 2015 Paris gun and suicide bomb attacks,

The Belgian trial is a prelude to a bigger one that Abdeslam will face in France at a later date over the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks claimed by Islamic State group, in which 130 people were killed. Abdeslam's brother Brahim was one of the suicide bombers.
Investigators say the same cell carried out the Brussels attacks on March 22, 2016, alleging the arrest of Abdeslam precipitated the suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station.

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First Published: Mar 29 2018 | 4:20 PM IST

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