Paris attack suspect guilty of attempted murder following shootout in Brussels suburb

Benoit PEYRUCQ

Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out

A Brussels court has found Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam and an accomplice guilty of attempted murder over shots fired at police officers as they sought to flee arrest in March 2016, and sentenced them to 20 years in prison.

Neither Abdeslam nor co-accused Sofien Ayari, who was also found guilty, were in court to hear the ruling on Monday.

Abdeslam exchanged gunfire with police in Brussels in March 2016 in shootout which led to his arrest, four months after the November 2015 attacks, which killed 130 people. "It is for that reason that I had to fight the enemies of Allah with all my strength".

Police move a barrier outside the Brussels justice palace during the trial.

Prosecutors who accuse Abdeslam of helping organize the attacks and ferry former fighters from Syria around Europe say he, too, would have died if his suicide vest had not failed to detonate.

Neither men were present as the verdict was read out on Monday, with both receiving the maximum 20-year term requested by prosecutors.

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During the trial in Brussels, Mr Abdeslam refused to answer any questions from the judge and eventually stopped attending the hearings. Abdeslam's lawyer Sven Mary told reporters outside the court that he would consult with his client at the prison where he is being held in France "and then we will see if he wants to lodge an appeal".

Belgian police mounted tight security around the imposing Palace of Justice building in Brussels for the verdict.

But lawyers for police wounded in the gun battle accused Abdeslam of "mocking" the trial.

An organisation representing victims of the Brussels attacks and their families has asked for symbolic damages of one euro from the trial.

Salah Abdeslam, only terrorist to survive attacks in Paris, has received his first conviction.

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