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Suspect from 2015 Paris attacks speaks to judge for first time

Salah Abdeslam was Europe’s most-wanted fugitive when he was captured as a suspect in the attacks that killed 130 people.

The only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 has agreed for the first time to answer a judge’s questions about the attacks.

A source close to the case told The Associated Press Salah Abdeslam was in a judge’s office on Friday for a joint hearing with Ali Oulkadi, who allegedly drove him in Brussels the day after the Paris attacks.

Oulkadi dropped Abdeslam off at a safe house also used as a workshop for manufacturing explosive belts.

The source, who was not allowed to speak publicly on the case, said Abdeslam spoke to help clear Oulkadi and refused to answer other questions.

Jean Reinhart, a lawyer for victims of the Paris attacks, told BFM television Abdeslam said Oulkadi “didn’t know exactly who he was” when he gave him the ride.

“It’s extremely important to us, because it’s the first time he’s starting to speak,” she said.

“It gives us a little hope to think that maybe, later, at the trial or maybe before, he will be able to speak again.”

A man places a candle at the La Carillon restaurant in Paris, following the attacks which killed 130 people (Steve Parsons/PA)

Abdeslam previously said silence would be his defence and systematically refused to answer the judge’s questions.

Abdeslam was Europe’s most-wanted fugitive when he was captured in Brussels as a suspect in the November 13 attacks that killed 130 people, after four months on the run.

He was extradited from Belgium to France and imprisoned, but has not gone to trial in France.

Abdeslam and another man, Sofiane Ayari, went on trial last month in Brussels, where they face charges of attempted murder in a terrorist context for a shootout with police on March 15, 2016.

Abdeslam escaped out a window with Ayari while a third Islamic State suspect died.

The pair were captured a few days later.

On March 22, 2016, Islamic State suicide bombers struck the Brussels metro and airport.

Prosecutors have asked for the maximum 20-year prison sentence.

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