It was the first public appearance for 28-year-old Salah Abdeslam since his arrest in Belgium in March 2016, according to Reuters news agency. He is on trial for charges related to a gunfight with authorities that preceded his arrest.Abdeslam is accused of attempted murder in a terrorist context and illegal possession of firearms, charges which carry up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The prosecutor is calling for the maximum sentence.His trial is expected to last a week. Abdeslam also is expected to face a trial in France on charges related to the November 13, 2015 terror attack in Paris. That night, men armed with assault rifles and explosives targeted six locations across the French capital, killing at least 130 people and wounding hundreds. The militant group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Authorities think Abdeslam, a French national born in Belgium, drove the black Renault Clio that dropped off three suicide bombers near the Stade de France.Abdeslam is the brother of Ibrahim Abdeslam, believed to be the suicide bomber who detonated explosives near a café on the Boulevard Voltaire the night of the November 2015 attack.
'I am not afraid of you'
In court Monday, Abdeslam looked very different than the clean-shaven young man who appeared in his arrest photos. His beard was full and his hair was longer and combed back, according to CNN affiliate BFM TV. Abdeslam had asked to be present at his trial. But he refused to stand or to answer questions, BFM TV reported, and even balked at confirming his identity when asked by the court, telling those assembled that silence was "his defense."But Abdeslam did lecture the court about the treatment of Muslims by the justice system, reported BFM TV. "What I see is that Muslims are judged in the worst way," he said. "My silence does not make me a criminal … I am not afraid of you, nor of your allies. I place my trust in Allah. I have nothing to add."Refusal to answer questions is a tactic Abdeslam has used before. In October 2016, some members of his legal team quit because he would not speak in court.
CNN's Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank contributed to this report.