Salah Abdeslam, the suspected Paris attacker captured in Brussels at the end of a four-month manhunt, is ready to cooperate with Belgian authorities but refuses extradition to France, his lawyer said. The 26-year-old Frenchman has been discharged from a hospital the Belgian capital where he was taken after suffering a gun wound to a leg during his arrest on 18 March.
He was immediately brought before a federal judge for questioning. "He cooperates with Belgian justice but is going to refuse extradition to France," his lawyer Sven Mary told media outside the offices of the federal police in Brussels.
Abdeslam is accused of being a member of an Islamic State (Isis) cell that killed 130 people in a series of coordinated shootings and bombing in Paris on 13 November. Mary said his client admits he was in the French capital the night of the attacks. "He was there," he said.
An alleged accomplice named Monir Ahmed Alaaj (aka Amine Choukri), was also wounded and arrested, along with three members of the family hiding them identified as Abid Aberkan, Sihane Aberkan, and Djemila M.
Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur tweeted that both Alaaj and Abdeslam were discharged from the CHU St Pierre hospital on the morning of 19 March.
France has issued a European arrest warrant for the Abdeslam and antiterrorist judges in Paris are expected to file extradition request in the coming days.
Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said the process could be delayed if the alleged terrorist decides to talk. "If he starts talking then I presume it will mean he stays longer in Belgium," Van der Sypt said. But "sooner or later he will be extradited to France," the Belgian prosecutor said.
At a joint press conference with the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, French president François Hollande said he expected authorities in Brussels would hand the accused to their French colleagues with no delay.
"The Belgian authorities will answer it as favourably as possible, as soon as possible," he said.
Michel said his government had no "political objections" to the extradition, although he said the process could take a couple of weeks.