Belgium’s ‘villain’s lawyer’ takes on ‘idol’ Paris prosecutor in Abdeslam case
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Sven Mary, the celebrity Belgian lawyer representing detained Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, threatened to launch legal action Monday against high profile Paris prosecutor François Molins on breach of confidentiality charges.
Mary was referring to Molins’ comments during a Saturday press conference about his client, Abdeslam, who was arrested the previous day in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital.
Molins told reporters in Paris that Abdeslam, 26, had admitted to Belgian officials that he "wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France" football stadium as a suicide bomber on November 13, but that he backed out at the last minute.
Mary lashed out against the disclosure on RTBF, calling it “a violation. It's a fault, and I cannot let it go unchallenged".
‘The star of the Belgian bench’
In his star-studded career as defense lawyer for celebrities and high profile criminals, Mary, 43, has allowed little to go unchallenged.
Dubbed “the star of the Belgian bench” as well as “the villain’s lawyer” (avocat des crapules) Mary’s clients have included infamous Belgian jihadist Fouad Belkacem, spokesperson for radical Salafist organisation Sharia4Belgium, who is serving a 12-year sentence for sending radicalised youths to Syria. His celebrity clients include French movie icon Jean-Paul Belmondo, whose frequent divorces keep lawyers busy.
This time, Mary is taking on another legal celebrity cut from a very different cloth. Molins -- the preternaturally controlled Paris prosecutor whose measured relaying of facts in some of the country’s biggest terrorist cases has turned him into an idol of sorts, earning him love letters from journalists – is an unlikely superstar in his own right.
The Mary v. Molins legal showdown
The Mary v. Molins legal showdown looks set to grip headlines in the days and weeks following Abdeslam’s dramatic capture in Molenbeek.
Mary has vowed to fight his client’s extradition to France tooth and nail in his comments to the press.
"Salah is of great importance to this investigation. I would even say that he is worth gold. He is cooperating, he is communicating, he is not insisting on his right to silence. I think it would be worthwhile now to give things a bit of time ... for investigators to be able to talk to him," Mary told reporters over the weekend.
A Belgium resident with French and Moroccan nationality, Salah was Europe’s most wanted man for four months following the Paris attacks.
France is seeking Abdeslam’s extradition on a case considered high value and that is likely to yield important information on European jihadist cells. Abdeslam is currently being held in a high security Belgian prison after being treated for gunshot injuries in the leg Friday. Molins meets his Belgian counterpart Frédéric Van Leeuw Monday in Brussels to discuss the case.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters at a Saturday news conference that his government has no “political objections” to handing Abdeslam over to the French. But, he added, Belgian judicial procedures should be fully respected and the process could “take at least a couple of weeks”.
For his part, Mary has expressed interest in Abdeslam’s case months before the French national of Moroccan origin was captured. In December 2015, Mary told Belgian daily Le Soir that, “If tomorrow Salah Abdeslam asked me for counsel, I would accept to be his lawyer.”
Mary’s motivation, as he has repeated to the Belgian press, is the climate of fear in Belgium and France, coupled by “arbitrariness and abuse of power” following the November 13 Paris attacks.
France is currently under a state of emergency that has not been lifted since November. Parliament is currently debating a move to enshrine the Algerian War of Independence-era measure in the constitution.
A controversial move by French President François Hollande’s government to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality has sparked strong condemnation from human rights groups as well as from some members of the ruling Socialist Party.