The last surviving suspected assailant in the 2015 gun and bomb attacks that shook Paris insisted in court Wednesday that he had “abandoned” plans to blow himself up with a bomb belt.
“I didn’t go all the way, I abandoned triggering my belt, not out of cowardice, not out of fear, but I just didn’t want to,” Salah Abdeslam told the hearing into the November 13, 2015 massacres.
The 32-year-old French defendant had met questions from prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers with silence for around two hours before deciding to answer.
He had “promised” in a previous hearing to provide an explanation, Claire Josserand-Schmidt, acting for some of the plaintiffs, told him as she opened her questioning, adding that she wasn’t trying to “trap” the suspect.
Abdeslam at first said he was “very sorry” before agreeing to respond.
He reiterated that he had been determined to set off the suicide belt before “going into reverse” on the evening of November 13.
Asked if he had lied when he told people his bomb failed to detonate, he said “yes”.
“I was ashamed of not going all the way,” Abdeslam said.
“I was afraid of the looks from the other jihadists. I was 25 years old. There you go, it’s that I was ashamed, as simple as that.”
He subsequently stopped answering questions.
Jihadists killed 130 people in suicide bombings and shootings at the Stade de France stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and on street terraces of bars and restaurants on November 13, 2015, in France’s worst peacetime atrocity.
The trial is the biggest in modern French history, with hundreds of plaintiffs.
After surviving the attack, Abdeslam fled to the Molenbeek district of Brussels where he grew up, but was captured in March 2016.
Alongside Abdeslam, co-defendants are answering charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks, as well as supplying weapons.