First public trial for Bataclan terror attack suspect

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The only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 refused to rise for a Belgian court on Monday, or answer questions about his actions, during his first appearance in public since his arrest almost two years ago.

Abdeslam had originally requested to attend his trial at the Palais de Justice in Brussels despite being held in France, where he has been in solitary confinement since April 2016. "That is my defense, and I am defending myself by remaining silent".

He claimed that Muslims were "judged and treated in the worst of ways, mercilessly" and said he was placing his trust in Allah.

Salah Abdeslam, who is on trial in his hometown of Brussels over a gunfight with police, declined to rise for the court or even answer questions about his alleged actions.

"I am accused, so I am here", he told the judge after arriving under heavy police escort from Paris.

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The trial relates to the 2016 shooting in Brussels, some four months after the Paris attacks. Abdeslam was captured a few days later in the flashpoint Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek.

Several people had said on Monday night that they had hoped Abdeslam would speak. Do what you want with me. I'm not afraid of your allies. A third brother, who has visited Abdeslam in prison, told a Belgian newspaper in December that he might be preparing to talk, inspired by a devout religious faith.

Ayari, a Tunisian who fought with IS for a year before heading to Europe, repeatedly refused to name accomplices, nor would he explain why he had traveled with others from the group to Belgium, where a fake ID with his photo awaited his arrival. The raid was a combined effort by French and Belgian police.

Three officers were wounded in the shootout that followed, and one suspect was killed.

Four days after his capture, extremists struck in Brussels. More than 130 people were killed in the Paris attacks.

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Ayari took pains to avoid saying anything that would clarify the plot, implicate Abdeslam or criticize IS, which was at the height of its recruitment drive at the time of the attacks.

"Why did all these people put up with you if you were so useless?" asked the exasperated presiding judge, Marie-France Keutgen.

Prosecutor Kathleen Grosjean recommended the pair be sentenced to 20 years in prison, what she said is the maximum sentence for an attempt to murder police officers.

"I am not afraid of you, I am not afraid of your allies", said a defiant Abdeslam, who has grown long hair and a beard during his almost two years behind bars.

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