This Crazy Belgian Law Allowed One of the Paris Terrorists to Escape

Police waffled as a suspect hid out in Brussels.

Armed police in Brussels during the manhunt for suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam.Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

A case of deadly international terrorism wasn’t enough to convince Belgian police to make an exception to an unusual law that appears to have prevented them from arresting one of the suspects in the Paris attacks. Two days after the ISIS attacks that killed 130, Belgian police received information that suspected attacker Salah Abdeslam was inside a home in the Molenbeek district of Brussels. But they did not raid the house because of a legal ban on conducting police raids between 9pm and 5am.

Law enforcement officers waited until the morning to conduct the raid, but by then, Abdeslam had managed to evade capture by being smuggled out of the house inside a wardrobe, according to reports. Sources close to the investigation told local news outlets that the police found evidence that Abdeslam was in the house on the night in question. “We had reason to believe Salah Abdeslam had been in that house, so we carried out a search on November 16 at 5 a.m., but he was not there,” a police spokesman said.

The law dates back to 1969, and was intended to protect Belgians’ civil rights. According to El Mundo, it cannot be circumvented except in cases of “flagrant crimes or fire.” Apparently, the coordinated attacks in Paris didn’t make the cut for such a designation. Abdeslam is still at large.