On 8 February, France 24 International reported that the defense counsel in the case against Salah Abdeslam had demanded his client be acquitted. Abdeslam (28), the only surviving suspect of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that resulted in 130 deaths and 99 critically wounded, is on trial in Brussels on terrorism-related charges of attempted murder and possession of banned weapons. On 15 March 2016, an attempt to arrest Abdeslam and another terror suspect in the Forest district of Brussels resulted in a shootout. Four police officers were wounded, while Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari, another suspect, fled. They were caught three days later in the nearby district of Molenbeek. Both suspects are alleged to be a part of the same Jihadist terrorist cell that carried out the attacks in Brussels on 22 March that killed 32 people.

Prosecutors have asked for the maximum, 20-year sentence for both men. Although the weapons used in the shootout have not been found, the prosecution says it has found DNA, linking Abdeslam to the Forest apartment where the shooting took place.

However, during the trial, Abdeslam’s defense counsel, Sven Mary, sought the case’s dismissal over a technicality. Mary explained that the top counter-terror judge should have issued the document naming the judges in Dutch, not in French, because he serves in a Dutch-language court in Brussels. Therefore, Mary concluded, the “whole case” against both Abdeslam and Ayari “must be thrown out“. Mary further complained about how the case had been polluted by media leaks in France and Belgium, denying his client a fair trial, while there was no ground to convict Abdeslam of a terrorist offense.

When Mary sought the case’s dismissal, Abdeslam was not in court. Although transferred from Paris – where he has been held since his arrest – for the trial on Monday, he did not attend on Thursday. Only the Tunisian Ayari (24) appeared in court, apparently listening intently to his interpreter. Tom Bauwens, the council for two of the police officers wounded, criticised Abdeslam, telling the court:

“His attitude and his opportunism tire me. He will mock our rule of law, he will mock everybody. He will not recognise your court, he will not recognise your laws. But he will nevertheless ask for a lawyer to plead his case before you.”

Of the consequences of the shooting for one of his clients, identified only by a number, Bauwens said:

“He is suffering so much from his brain lesions that he no longer knows what to do. He has epileptic fits. He has loss of vision and balance. It’s the reality. Agent number nine did his work and all he asks for is for you the court to continue the work he started.”

The trial in Brussels is only a prelude to the trial Abdeslam will face in France over the November 12 2015 attacks. Abdeslam’s brother Brahim was one of the attack’s suicide bombers.