Jailed Paris attacks suspect pens introspective letter to female fan
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The main suspect in the Paris attacks has refused lawyers and failed to cooperate in judicial proceedings. But in a letter to an unnamed woman, Salah Abdeslam provided insights into his inner life, according to French media reports.
Since his April 27 extradition from Belgium, France’s most carefully monitored prisoner has been stubbornly silent, refusing court-appointed lawyers and ignoring questions from judges working on the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks case.
But in a letter from his prison cell to what appears to be a female fan, Abdeslam proved to be unusually communicative, offering a rare glimpse into his mental state.
Extracts of Abdeslam’s correspondence with an unnamed woman published Friday by French daily Libération provides some insights into his motivations, relationship to religion and intellectual capacity.
The 27-year-old Frenchman, who failed to detonate his suicide vest on the night of the Paris attacks when his fellow jihadists mowed down 130 people has been an enigma and source of frustration for his lawyers.
Shortly before his extradition to France from Belgium where he was arrested last year Abdeslam’s Belgian lawyer excoriated his client. “He has the intelligence of an empty ashtray, he is abysmally vacuous,” lawyer Sven Mary told Libération.
Abdeslam’s French lawyers meanwhile have resigned, citing non-cooperation from their client. The suspect has refused replacement lawyers and has declined to answer questions during his court appearances.
But in a letter from his cell in the high security Fleury-Mérogis prison outside Paris, Abdeslam appears to be fairly articulate.
"First of all, I'm not afraid of letting anything slip because I'm not ashamed of what I am and then what worse could be said than what's already been said," wrote Abdeslam.
The undated letter was entered in Abdeslam’s investigative file on October 11, 2016 after French judge Christophe Teissier deemed it “useful for the establishment of the truth”.
‘Women proclaim their love’
Abdeslam is being held in isolation in Fleury-Mérogis. A French court last year overruled his request to have a permanent 24-hour video surveillance device removed from his cell.
>> Read more on FRANCE24.COM: "Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam goes to court over 24-hour prison surveillance"
But the chief terror suspect in the Paris attacks has been receiving several letters, French officials told Libération.
"Catholics write to him to question him about his faith, women proclaim their love and declare they want to bear his children, lawyers offer their services, it is incessant," a source close to the investigation told the French daily.
But so far, Abdeslam has only replied to the unnamed woman, whose last letter had a postmark from a post office in the eastern French Côte-d'Or region.
"I'm writing to you without knowing how to start. I got all your letters and I don't know whether I've enjoyed them or not. They definitely let me spend a bit of time in the outside world," wrote Abdeslam. "Since you've been straightforward, I will be too. If I ask about your intentions, it's to reassure myself that you don't love me as a 'star' or 'idol' because I get messages like that and I don't endorse that because the only person who deserves to be adored is Allah," he continued.
Despite his high-security detention conditions, Abdeslam is entitled to receive mail as well as to write letters while in custody. His prison correspondence though is systematically opened and reviewed by prison authorities as well as investigative magistrates.
‘Submission to Allah’
Some of Abdeslam’s lawyers have suggested that the Frenchman, who was a petty criminal in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels where he grew up, had little or no interest or knowledge of Islam.
But his letter suggests that religion or his interpretation of Islam underpinned his actions that fateful November 2015 night.
"I do not seek to raise myself on earth nor to commit disorder, I only want reform. I am a Muslim, which means submission to Allah, who created me and who, by his grace, has harmoniously shaped me as you have been shaped,” wrote Abdeslam to his female admirer. “So, hurry and repent and submit to Him, and do not listen to people but rather the words of your Lord. He will guide you."