Belgian justice “temporarily” prohibits the return of Salah Abdeslam to France to serve his sentence

Salah Abdeslam's lawyers, Delphine Paci and Michel Bouchat, at the Brussels-Capital ize Court, September 15, 2023.

Salah Abdeslam will not immediately return to France to serve the prison sentence – irreducible perpetuity – to which he was sentenced on June 29, 2022 by the Paris Special ize Court for his participation in the attacks of November 13, 2015. Reading the order that the Brussels Court of Appeal issued in summary proceedings (emergency), Tuesday October 3, the only member still alive of the Islamist commandos who killed 130 people may never even return to a French prison.

The magistrates had to rule on an appeal brought by the two lawyers who defended Salah Abdeslam during the trial of the attacks at Zaventem airport and the Maelbeek metro station, which left 35 victims, in 2016. Mare Delphine Paci and Michel Bouchat tried to prevent their client’s return to France by invoking the fact that the irreducible life sentence imposed in France was tantamount to inhuman and degrading treatment because it would prohibit any hope of release and reintegration. Abdeslam’s Parisian lawyers had, at the time, spoken of a “slow death sentence”.

The Brussels Court of Appeal, which will have to make a definitive decision later – there is talk of a delay of several months, or even a few years – has banned “temporarily”Tuesday, the transfer of Abdeslam who was, in principle, to be handed over to the French authorities at the end of September under an agreement concluded between the two countries to ensure his presence at the trial organized in the Belgian capital.

State transfer request

At the end of long months of hearings, the popular jury of the Brussels ize Court did not sentence Salah Abdeslam to life in prison in September. He referred to a previous decision by the Belgian courts, pronounced in 2018, when the Frenchman was sentenced to twenty years in prison for a shooting with police officers that occurred in Forest, in March 2016. Considered, despite his denials, as one of the co-perpetrators of the two attacks in Brussels and found guilty of inations and attempted inations, Abdeslam will, if he remains in Belgium, serve this sentence, as well as the life sentence handed down in Paris. But a “simple” perpetuity, without being incompressible.

This implies that Abdeslam could, in the eyes of Belgian justice, theoretically regain his freedom one day. To this end, he would have to submit a request for release after around fifteen years but would have to obtain a unanimous decision from the five members of a sentence enforcement court. His Belgian lawyers have also sent France a request for state transfer to try to obtain the definitive surrender of their client to Belgium.

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