Robert-Jan Bartunek, Brian Love and Philip Blenkinsop
Apr 27th 2016 5:05AM
BRUSSELS, April 27 (Reuters) - Salah Abdeslam, suspected of playing a major part in November's attacks in Paris by Islamist militants in which 130 people were killed, has been extradited to France from Belgium, prosecutors in both countries said on Wednesday.
Abdeslam, 26, was Europe's most wanted fugitive until his capture in Brussels on March 18 after a four-month manhunt. He was due to appear before French judges later on Wednesday.
"Salah Abdeslam has been handed over to the French authorities this morning," Belgium's federal prosecutors said in a statement.
His capture in March came four days before separate suicide bomb attacks by Islamist militants at Brussels international airport and on a metro train which killed 32 people.
Frank Berton, a high-profile French criminal lawyer, said he would lead Abdeslam's defense and had visited his client for more than two hours last week in his prison cell in Belgium along with Abdeslam's Belgian lawyer, Sven Mary.
Investigators say Abdeslam told them he had arranged logistics for the Nov. 13 bombing and shooting attacks in Paris and had planned to blow himself up at a sports stadium there but backed out at the last minute.
RELATED: Suspects in the Paris attacks:
Suspects in the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Salah Abdeslam, Ahmad Almohammad
Suspect in Paris attacks extradited to France from Belgium
This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud the Belgian jihadi suspected of masterminding deadly attacks in Paris was killed in a police raid on a suburban apartment building, the city prosecutor's office announced Thursday Nov. 1, 2015. Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins' office said 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud was identified based on skin samples. His body was found in the apartment building targeted in the chaotic and bloody raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday. (Militant photo via AP)
This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital’s Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, was identified by French authorities on Monday Nov. 16, 2015, as the presumed mastermind of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris that killed over a hundred people and injured hundreds more. (Militant Photo via AP)
This undated image taken from a Militant Website on Monday Nov. 16, 2015 showing Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud. A French official says Abdelhamid Abaaoud is the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks was also linked to thwarted train and church attacks. (Militant video via AP)
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected mastermind of the #ParisAttacks was "interviewed" in #ISIS's Dabiq magazine https://t.co/wSKmztFfn5
BREAKING: Third Bataclan attacker identified as Foued Mohamed-Aggad https://t.co/FYwEykV9Kp https://t.co/7g6vH7gvwH
This undated photo released late Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, by Greece's migration policy ministry shows a registration photo from a document issued to 25-year old Ahmad Almohammad, holder of a Syrian passport found near a dead assailant in the scene of a Paris attack Friday. The document was issued on Sunday, Oct. 4 by authorities on the Greek island of Leros, where the man arrived a day earlier on a frail boat carrying migrants over from Turkey. It protects him from deportation for six months, and is the same documentation routinely issued to thousands of newly-arrived migrants. (Greek Migration Ministry via AP)
This undated photo released late Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, by Greece's migration policy ministry shows a document issued to 25-year old Ahmad Almohammad, holder of a Syrian passport found near a dead assailant in the scene of a Paris attack Friday. The document was issued on Sunday, Oct. 4 by authorities on the Greek island of Leros, where the man arrived a day earlier on a frail boat carrying migrants over from Turkey. It protects him from deportation for six months, and is the same documentation routinely issued to thousands of newly-arrived migrants. On the right is a copy of his fingerprints, taken on Saturday, Oct. 3. (Greek Migration Policy Ministry via AP)
This undated file photo provided by French Police shows 26-year old Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted by police in connection with recent terror attacks in Paris, as police investigations continue Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. French police released the wanted notice and photo of the suspect on the run since the attacks in Paris on Friday. The notice, released on the France National Police Twitter account, says anyone seeing Salah Abdeslam, should consider him dangerous. (Police Nationale via AP)
This undated file photo released Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, by French Police shows 26-year old Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted by police in connection with recent terror attacks in Paris, as police investigations continue. The notice, released on the national police Twitter account, says anyone seeing Salah Abdeslam, should consider him dangerous and call authorities immediately. The notice reads in French: "Call for witnesses - Police are hunting a suspect : Salah Abdeslam, born on Sept. 15, 1989 Brussels, Belgium. ...Dangerous individual don't intervene yourself". (Police Nationale via AP)
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He is suspected of having rented two cars used to transport the attackers to, and around, the French capital.
"He told me naturally that he has things to say and he will say them. He wants to talk," Berton said.
"What counts and what matters for us as his lawyers is simply that he gets a fair trial, that he is sentenced for things he did and not things that he didn't do. That's vital because he is the sole survivor," he told BFM TV.
Abdeslam's elder brother Brahim, with whom he used to run a bar in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, was among the Paris suicide bombers, blowing himself up at a cafe.
Salah may have been the 10th man referred to in an Islamic State claim of responsibility. Police found one abandoned suicide vest in a Paris suburb.
Abdeslam had been held in a prison in the Belgian town of Bruges. Last week he was charged in Belgium over a shootout with police in an apartment in southern Brussels in which his finger prints were found days before his eventual arrest.
Belgian police have arrested a number of Abdeslam's associates, including Mohamed Abrini, wanted over the Paris attacks and also a suspected Brussels attacker.