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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


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.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate