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Court Defers Decision on Handover of Brussels Shooting Suspect

Legal team for Brussels shooting suspect Mehdi Nemmouche delays extradition decision in France as lengthy investigation continues.
By AFP
First Publish: 6/5/2014, 3:01 PM

A couple stands by a memorial outside Brussels Jewish Museum
A couple stands by a memorial outside Brussels Jewish Museum
Reuters

A French court said it would rule next Thursday on whether a French Islamist arrested on suspicion of a triple murder at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, can be handed over to Belgium.

The lawyer representing Mehdi Nemmouche told the court in Versailles, west of Paris, that he needed more time to prepare his arguments as his client formally confirmed he was contesting his handover to Belgian authorities.

The 29-year-old Nemmouche gave monosyllabic replies from behind a glass box in the court Thursday and confirmed that he held both French and Algerian nationality.

Nemmouche told the judge he recognized a European arrest warrant for him but replied "no" when asked if he agreed to be handed over to Belgium where authorities want to question him.

Nemmouche was arrested in Marseille on Friday. He wants to stand trial in France and his decision to contest the warrant could delay his return to Belgium by several weeks.

His lawyer, Apolin Pepiezep, said he wanted Nemmouche to be judged in France as he was French and currently in the country.

Nemmouche spent over a year fighting in Syria with one of the most feared Islamist groups before returning to Europe this year.

Arrested during a random customs check on a bus coming from Amsterdam via Brussels, he was found carrying a Kalashnikov and a pistol similar to the weapons used in the May 24 attack.

He was also found to be carrying a camera on which he appeared to have filmed himself admitting responsibility for the attack, according to police sources.

According to police sources, Nemmouche has said virtually nothing to his interrogators.

The victims of the Brussels attack included an Israeli couple and a French volunteer at the museum, who were all killed instantly. Another man, a museum employee, was left in a critical condition from which he has no prospect of recovery.