Brussels is on high alert, with 200 police officers and a helicopter permanently monitoring the situation near the Palace of Justice, while hundreds of journalists will follow the first trial of Salah Abdeslam, the suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks, over a shootout with Belgian police that resulted in his arrest.
Abdeslam, 28, a Belgian-born French national of Moroccan descent, is suspected of involvement in the series of terror attacks across Paris and its suburbs of Saint Denis in November 2015, which left 130 people dead and over 400 injured. He is also accused of having links to Daesh terror group.
The Belgian court starts the trial of Abdeslam and his accomplice, Tunisian national Sofiane Ayari, over a gunbattle that took place on March 15, 2016 in the southern Brussels borough of Forest during police’s attempt to check an abandoned house. The firing resulted in the deaths of two police officers and precipitated the terrorist attacks committed by Abdeslam’s accomplices, which took place in Brussels seven days later, at the airport and in a metro station, killing 32 people and injuring 340 people.
Abdeslam was transported by a road convoy from France for his first day of trial in Brussels, not by helicopter as it was previously announced. All the participants of the hearing, including the two defendants, should be in place before 9 a.m. (08:00 GMT) for the first trial of Abdeslam, which will last for four days — through Friday, except for Wednesday.
For four months after the 2015 Paris attacks, Abdeslam was public enemy number one, until he was arrested by the Belgian police on March 18, 2016 in his native borough of Molenbeek in Brussels. For the last two years, Abdeslam has been locked up in isolation in Fleury Merogis, the French high security prison, and has steadfastly refused to speak, to the point of losing his lawyers, who did not see any more what they could do for him.
Abdeslam has subsequently been transferred to a smaller unit, the high security prison for radicalized inmates of Vendin le Vieil in the north of France, near Lille, in order to be transported easily by helicopter every day to Brussels for the legal proceedings.
The testimony of the two defendants, Abdeslam and Ayari, will be a chapter in the trial that will be opened later in France on the terrorist attacks in Paris.