Lawyer of Paris attacks suspect seeks to halt surveillance

VERSAILLES, France (AP) — The lawyer for the suspected sole survivor of the group that attacked Paris in November asked a court Wednesday to halt the 24-hour video surveillance of his client in solitary confinement, saying there is neither a legal nor medical basis for peeking into every moment of his life.

Salah Abdeslam was not present in the Versailles court room as lawyer Frank Berton argued to do away with the state-ordered cameras.

He told the court the 24-hour video surveillance is damaging to his client’s health, while the government argued the cameras do not seriously impact his private life.

Abdeslam, 26, who was extradited from Belgium on April 27, invoked his right to silence at a May hearing before investigating magistrates. Berton said his client was disturbed by the constant surveillance, and called it illegal.

“Medical professionals say it’s worse than anything else” and almost unheard of internationally, Berton said. “In the U.S., to my knowledge, this doesn’t exist.”

In a strong closing statement, the lawyer cast a grim eye on his client’s fate.

“I’m not here to ask for the liberation of Salah Abdeslam — he’ll never get out of prison. I’m here to ask for his private life,” Berton said.

The court has 48 hours after the urgent hearing to issue a ruling.

Glimpses of Abdeslam at Fleury-Merogis prison from footage published in a French newspaper after a recent visit by lawmaker Thierry Solere fed Berton’s anger over the surveillance.

Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas, who ordered the surveillance, said Wednesday ahead of the hearing that he would do “exactly what the court decides.” But he added in the interview with BFM TV that if the court rules against the constant surveillance, “I will propose a law” in Parliament.

Berton has contended the video surveillance is a political measure “simply to reassure public opinion” after the Nov. 13 attacks on a stadium, concert hall, bars and restaurants that killed 130 people.

French judicial officials had high hopes that Abdeslam would unlock secrets at their first encounter. His lawyer said after the May hearing that his client “can’t bear” being under surveillance and that prevented him from collaborating.

Abdeslam, a French citizen raised in Belgium, returned to Brussels the morning after the Paris attacks. He was captured March 18 at a hideout near his childhood home in Brussels’ Molenbeek neighborhood. Four days later, suicide bombers detonated their explosives at the Brussels airport and metro, killing 32 people.

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