Salah Abdeslam wants to be extradited to France immediately to explain himself about his involvement in the Paris attacks in November. Abdeslam was captured on Friday and charged with terrorist murder that killed 17 people and wounded 22, including civilians and police officers.
After Abdeslam’s arrest, his lawyer Sven Mary had said his client intended to resist extradition to France, according to BBC. But now Mary said his client “wants to leave for France as quickly as possible” after a court hearing in Brussels.
The decision by the 26-year-old to accept extradition was a reversal of his position. He was Europe’s most wanted man until he was arrested on Friday in a raid in Molenbeek, the Brussels neighborhood where he grew up.
Salah Abdeslam appears to be a crucial link between the Paris attacks and those that struck Brussels on Tuesday, killing at least 31 people and wounding about 300 others. Both series of assaults were carried out by militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Asked why Abdeslam had changed his mind, Mary said that his client understood that “the case here is just a small piece,” and that he wanted to “explain himself in France.” Abdeslam has not spoken to investigators since the bombings in Brussels. Asked what his client had said about the attacks, Mary replied: “He didn’t say, because he didn’t know it.” Asked if Abdeslam had reacted to the attacks, Mary responded, “He had no reaction.”
Mary had earlier told Europe 1 radio, “Investigators went to see him yesterday, and he wants to see me first.” He added that he was not encouraging Salah Abdeslam to remain silent.
“I wouldn’t want him to clam up,” Mary added. “His clamming up would make us face other Zaventems and other Bataclans,” he said, referring to the Belgian airport that was bombed and to the Paris concert hall where 90 people were killed by gunmen on Nov. 13.
Abdeslam and two others - Abid Aberkan, a relative who is accused of having sheltered him; and a man who is suspected of being an accomplice and whose identity is unclear - appeared in a Brussels court Thursday morning, but the hearing was postponed to April 7 at the request of their lawyers.
The man who is suspected of being an accomplice has used various aliases, including Amine Choukri, Monir Ahmed Alaaj and Soufien Ayari. He was arrested with Abdeslam last Friday in Molenbeek.
Salah Abdeslam’s arrest appears to have set off an anxious response by his associate Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 29, one of three suicide bombers who carried out the Brussels attacks.
In a statement found on a computer that was discarded in a trash can, Bakraoui wrote that he was wanted, felt unsafe, did not know what to do and feared that if he dallied, he risked ending up “next to him in a cell,” the Belgian federal prosecutor, Frédéric Van Leeuw, said on Wednesday. He did not specify whether “him” referred to Abdeslam.