December 18, 2017 / 8:23 AM / 8 months ago

Belgian trial of Paris attack suspect postponed to Feb. 5

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Belgian trial of a key suspect in the November 2015 Islamic State attack on Paris was postponed on Monday for seven weeks, after Saleh Abdeslam’s newly appointed lawyer asked for more time to study the case.

FILE PHOTO: Handout file picture shows Belgian-born Salah Abdeslam on a call for witnesses notice released by the French Police Nationale information services on their twitter account November 15, 2015. Police Nationale/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Granting the request, the judge set a new trial date of Feb. 5.

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A French national but a lifelong Brussels resident, Abdeslam fled back to Belgium after the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, hiding from police for four months before being detained in March last year. Four days later, on March 22, 2016, Brussels was hit by twin bomb attacks that killed 32 people.

Investigators believe that those behind the Paris and Brussels suicide attacks were linked and that Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself up at a Paris cafe on Nov. 13, 2015, is one of the few surviving participants.

Held facing trial in France, he will be transferred to Belgium to first stand trial there, with an alleged accomplice, for attempted murder as Abdeslam evaded capture during a shootout with Brussels police three days before his arrest.

Abdeslam, who was not in court on Monday, appointed a new lawyer only last week and his counsel asked for more time to prepare the defense.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Farah Saleh; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and William Maclean

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