Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam sentenced to 20 years in prison
Salah Abdeslam was flanked by masked guards during the court proceedings. (Reuters: Emmanuel Dunand/Pool)
A Belgian judge has sentenced Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect in the 2015 Islamic State attacks on Paris, to 20 years in prison over a shootout with police in Brussels in 2016.
Abdeslam’s co-defendant Sofien Ayari also received a 20-year term for attempted terrorist murder.
While his lawyer argued Abdeslam, 28, should be acquitted because of a procedural error, prosecutors had charged him with attempted murder over the Brussels shootout, days before his arrest, and called for a jail term of 20 years.
However, the court said the “terror character” was clearly established in the March 2016 shooting, four months after the Paris attacks that killed 130.
Court president Luc Hennart said the two chose not to attend the reading of the verdict and sentencing.
Abdeslam attended the opening day of the trial in February but has refused to cooperate since. He is being held in a prison in northern France.
It is unclear when he will face trial over the Paris attacks.
The conclusion of the case at Brussels’ ornate Palace of Justice took place amid tight security set up by the armed forces and police.
Abdeslam was close to being arrested in a hideout when he and Ayari fled while another man sprayed gunfire at police and was killed. Three officers were wounded.
Three days later, Abdeslam was captured in Brussels. Four days after that, extremists struck in the Belgian capital, killing 32 people in bomb attacks at the airport and on the subway system.