Saleh Abdeslam, a Belgian national accused of carrying out November’s terrorist attacks across Paris, is a “little moron from Molenbeek, more a follower than a leader.”
That is according to his lawyer, Sven Mary, who told the French daily newspaper Liberation that Abdeslam – who was extradited to France from Belgium this week for his trial – “has the intelligence of an empty ashtray.”
Molenbeek is the district in Belgium where Abdeslam is believed to have been born and raised.
“There have been moments when I thought of giving up,” Mary said. “If I had known about the Brussels attacks, maybe I would never have taken this case.”
He continued: “He is the perfect example of the GTA (“Grand Theft Auto” video game) generation who thinks he lives in a video game. I asked him if he had read the Quran, and he replied that he had read its interpretation on the internet.”
Abdeslam is believed to have played a key role in carrying out the Paris attacks, renting three cars and accused by authorities of driving three suicide bombers to the national stadium where he was also supposed to detonate a suicide vest but backed out at the last minute.
- Christian Hartmann/Reuters
Abdeslam arrived in France at 9:05 a.m. local time Wednesday and was promptly placed under arrest, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said in a statement. Abdeslam’s French lawyer, Frank Berton, said his client was “anxious to explain himself in France,” AFP reported.
Abdeslam is being investigated on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, murder, kidnapping and holding weapons and explosives. He has been placed in solitary confinement, Reuters reported.
The 26-year-old was found and detained in Brussels in early March after four months of evading capture. Abdeslam is also believed to have played a role in organizing and planning last month’s terrorist attacks at an airport and a metro station in Brussels before his arrest, authorities have said, but Mary has insisted that his client was “not aware” of any plans to attack the European Union’s capital.
It is unclear whether Mary is being genuine or whether his comments about Abdeslam’s intelligence are an attempt to downplay the suspect’s ability to have planned and carried out such a sophisticated attack in the heart of Europe.
But clues linking Abdeslam to March’s attacks in Brussels, which killed 34 people, have been piling up as details emerge about the men involved in the attack.
- Yorick Jansens/Reuters
Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in the Forest district of Brussels at one of the apartments authorities believe was rented by Khalid El Bakraoui, who killed 20 people when he detonated himself at Brussels’ Maelbeek metro station.
And a suicide note thought to be written by Ibrahim El Bakraoui, a suicide bomber who killed 14 people at Brussels Airport, offers further clues of a link between Abdeslam and the Brussels attacks. El Bakraoui apparently wrote in French that he was in “a bad situation” and that, if he did not act immediately, he would end up in a prison cell “like him” – authorities think “him” refers to Abdeslam, whose arrest came shortly before the Brussels attacks.
“The note would confirm the speculation that the attackers moved up the timetable because Abdeslam was arrested,” Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” told Business Insider last month.
The day before the Brussels attacks, Najim Laachraoui, an ISIS bombmaker who made the suicide vests used in the attacks in both Paris and Brussels, was named by Belgian officials as a suspected accomplice of Abdeslam’s in the Paris attacks. Abdeslam is believed to have traveled to Austria from Hungary with Laachraoui last September.