Sole surviving assailant in November 2015 Paris attacks testifies in court

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Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving member of the 10-man Islamic State (IS) group cell that carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks, testified before a special court in the French capital on Tuesday, revealing details of his life before that fateful night, when jihadists killed 130 people and wounded hundreds in a killing spree.

Abdeslam described his childhood at his first hearing in the Paris attacks case.

Dressed in a grey blazer over a light-coloured shirt, Abdeslam, 32, described his childhood, saying he was a “calm” child and a “good student”.

His hearing came five weeks after the start of the trial, the biggest in modern French history, conducted at a purpose-built facility in central Paris.

The main defendant in the case was questioned for more than two hours, said FRANCE 24’s Claire Paccalin, reporting from the courthouse.

“The aim of questioning of Salah Abdeslam was not about the events of November 13, it was about his personality. The idea is that the presiding judge and the rest of the courtroom need to get an understanding of who he is and where he came from,” she explained.

‘Calm, kind’

"I am the fourth of five siblings. I have three older brothers and a younger sister,” said Abdeslam. When asked about his childhood, he described it as "very simple", adding that he was "someone calm, kind".

Abdeslam’s lawyer asked her client about his detention conditions, which sparked a few interesting exchanges between the defendant and presiding judge, said Paccalin.

While Abdeslam described his detention conditions in solitary confinement as difficult, he said he had never complained about it. “The presiding judge reminded him that, no you did complain earlier about the detention conditions and reminded him that the conditions were in place to prevent a suicide attempt,” explained Paccalin.

Abdeslam, who dumped his defective explosives vest in a public bin, was captured in March 2016 after a shootout with police in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where he grew up.

The Paris attacks trial is expected to last until May 2022, with 145 days of scheduled hearings involving about 330 lawyers and 300 victims.

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