Salah Abdeslam and an accomplice have been found guilty of 2016 shootout with the Belgian police in Brussels. Abdeslam is being held in jail in France pending a separate trial over the 2015 Paris attacks in which 130 people died.

The Belgian trial was a prelude to a bigger one that Abdeslam will face in France at a later date over the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks, which were claimed by Daesh.
The Belgian trial was a prelude to a bigger one that Abdeslam will face in France at a later date over the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks, which were claimed by Daesh. (AFP Archive)

A Belgian court on Monday sentenced the Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam to 20 years in prison after finding him guilty of attempted 'terrorist murder' of police during a shootout with police in Brussels in March 2016

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

The court said the "terror character" of the shooting was clearly established in the incident when Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari sought to escape after they were found in a hideout in a Brussels suburb.

Abdeslam is in a French prison awaiting trial for his role in attacks on Paris in November 2015. Prosecutors say he is lone survivor of the Daesh suicide squad. 

TRT World spoke with Kevin Ozebek in Brussels for more details.

Strict security

Earlier, Belgian security forces mounted a major operation around the imposing Palace of Justice building in Brussels for the verdict.

Abdeslam, 28, a Belgian-born French national, was transported to the court from France for the first day of the trial amid tight security including a helicopter escort, while Tunisian national Ayari, 24, is in jail in Belgium.

On the first day of the trial, Abdeslam proclaimed that he would only put his "trust in Allah" and accused the court of being biased against Muslims.

He then refused to attend the rest of the proceedings.

Three police officers were wounded in the gun battle after police acting on a tip-off over the Paris attacks raided a flat in the Forest area of Brussels on March 15, 2016.

Abdeslam was arrested three days later in the Molenbeek area of the Belgian capital, near his family home.

Attacks in Brussels

On March 22 suicide bombers from a cell linked to the Paris attacks killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more at Brussels airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital.

Investigators say Abedeslam's arrest spurred the Brussels bombers to bring forward the attacks, which had originally been planned for a later date, as they feared they could be captured.

Prosecutors have said that DNA links Abdeslam to the apartment in the Forest district of Brussels where the shooting took place, but not to the weapons themselves that were used.

After Abdeslam refused to return to court for the trial in February, his lawyer Sven Mary sought the case's dismissal on a technicality over how the judges were named to investigate the gun battle, and said media leaks had denied him a fair trial.

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

One of the injured police officers was still suffering from after-effects including brain lesions, epileptic fits and vision and balance problems.

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

The Belgian trial is a prelude to a bigger one that Abdeslam will face in France at a later date over the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks, which were claimed by Daesh.

Abdeslam's brother Brahim was one of the suicide bombers.

Source: AFP