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Paris suspect Abdeslam's lawyer asks for Belgian trial to be postponed: source

BRUSSELS (AFP) - 

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam's lawyer asked on Wednesday for his client's trial in Belgium to be postponed from next week's opening, a source close to the investigation said.

The request by lawyer Sven Mary for Abdeslam, due to stand trial on Monday over a 2016 shootout in Brussels that led to his capture, "logically should be accepted", the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"There will be a hearing Monday to review the (lawyer's postponement) request, which will be accepted in principle," the source close to the investigation said.

Only the lawyers will be present in the court without their clients, the source said, adding the case is likely to be postponed until January.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported on its website that Abdeslam's transfer from France "has been cancelled".

Under arrangements between the neighbouring countries, he will be transferred to a prison in the north of France and taken to the Belgian capital when the trial actual begins.

Abdeslam and Sofian Ayari, also implicated in the shootout, were set to stand trial on charges of "attempting to murder several police officers in a terrorist context" and of "carrying prohibited weapons in a terrorist context".

Ayari is in a prison in Belgium.

During the gun battle on March 15, 2016 in the Brussels neighbourhood of Forest, several police officers were wounded and an alleged Abdeslam accomplice was killed.

Both Abdeslam and Ayari were captured days after the shootout, ending a four-month manhunt for Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Abdeslam, 28, is linked to the same cell that carried out suicide bombings in Brussels a week after the gun battle. Thirty-two people were killed at Brussels airport and a metro station near the EU's headquarters.

Abdeslam, born in Brussels of Moroccan origin, has spent nearly 20 months in isolation, under 24-hour video surveillance, at a prison in the Paris region since his transfer to French authorities in April last year.

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office has declined to comment on the development.

© 2017 AFP