Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam extradited to France

Images of Salah Abdeslam Image copyright Belgian/French police
Image caption Abdeslam was arrested in a dramatic raid in Brussels not far from his home nearly six weeks ago

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has appeared before a French judge hours after his extradition from Belgium.

His lawyer said the 26-year-old French national had been placed under formal investigation for murder and attempted murder of a terrorist nature.

Salah Abdeslam is thought to have played a key role in planning the Paris attacks and transporting the attackers.

He was arrested in an 18 March raid in Brussels after four months on the run.

The co-ordinated attacks carried out by so-called Islamic State in Paris on 13 November claimed 130 lives and left dozens more severely wounded.

Belgium's federal prosecutor said Salah Abdeslam had been "surrendered to the French authorities this morning (in execution of the European Arrest Warrant issued by France on 19 March 2016)".

Until his next appearance in court on 20 May he will be kept in custody at Fleury-Merogis, Europe's biggest jail a short distance south of the capital where two other Islamist militants served sentences before taking part in the January 2015 attacks on Paris.

Salah Abdeslam was indicted by Belgian authorities last week over a shoot-out in the Forest area of Brussels in which four police were wounded, three days before he was arrested.

He left Beveren prison near Antwerp on Wednesday under heavy French security as French criminal lawyer Frank Berton announced that he would be taking on his defence. He said they had had a two-and-a-half-hour meeting at the end of last week.

'Empty ashtray'

Mr Berton told BFMTV (in French) he hoped the man would be judged "for what he has done and not what he has not done... not for what he represents because he is the last survivor". All the other key Paris attackers are believed to be dead.

Frank Berton: Case history

Image copyright AFP
Image caption French criminal lawyer Frank Berton has said he is taking on Salah Abdeslam's defence - in spite of hostility faced by the suspect's Belgian counsel

Frank Berton has defended some high-profile clients in recent years:

Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman jailed in Mexico in 2007 for 60 years for kidnapping but controversially freed in 2013. She is alleged to have been part of the Zodiacs gang

Dominique Cottrez, sentenced to nine years in prison in 2015 for killing eight of her newborn babies

Daniel Legrand, found guilty of child sex offences in 2004 as part of the Outreau case; his conviction was later overturned in one of France's most notorious miscarriages of justice

Mohamed Drici, jailed for involvement in Islamist attacks in 1995, in which 10 people were murdered

Mr Berton described Salah Abdeslam as "falling apart because of the drama that unfolded in France" and said he wanted to explain his actions.

He said he was aware of the risks in representing his client, but insisted "he has the right to a fair trial".

Mr Abdeslam's Belgian lawyer, Sven Mary, has spoken of the dangers he faced in representing him - telling France's Liberation website (in French) that he was threatened, assaulted physically and verbally in his office, and that on occasion police had escorted his daughters to school.

But Mr Mary also spoke disparagingly of his client, describing him as having the "intelligence of an empty ashtray".