2016 jihadist attacks in Brussels: beginning of a marathon process

2016 jihadist attacks in Brussels: beginning of a marathon process

Six and a half years after the events, the Brussels jury begins what looks like a court marathon on Monday to try the ten alleged co-authors of the jihadist attacks that killed 32 people in the Belgian capital in 2016.

The debates should not open before October. But a preliminary hearing will be called on Monday at 9:00 a.m. (07:00 GMT) to settle various procedural points and in particular to determine the order of appearance of the witnesses, which will be consecutive a priori at the Bar Association until June 2023.

The hearing is also expected to spark lively debate about the individual closed boxes that are placed in the courtroom for the accused and likened to “cages” by their lawyers. Several of them said they wanted to get their “slip.”

“I’m not asking him for a chair, I just don’t want him to be treated like an animal,” said Michel Bouchat, Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer.

The French jihadist, the only surviving member of the November 13, 2015 commando (130 dead in Paris and Saint-Denis), is one of the ten accused in the trial. He will be missed on that first day.

On the morning of March 22, 2016, two jihadists blew themselves up at Brussels-Zaventem International Airport, and a third a good hour later in the metro of the European capital. Record: 32 dead and more than 340 injured.

So far, the federal prosecutor’s office has identified 960 civil parties, injured parties or relatives of victims who are claiming damages in the largest trial ever before a people’s jury in Belgium.

The investigation quickly revealed, thanks in particular to a computer found in a trash can, that the perpetrators of the March 22 attacks were linked to those of November 13, members of the same Islamic State cell that had formed largely on Belgian soil.

It was probably the arrest of Salah Abdeslam on March 18 in Brussels that accelerated the action of the other members of the cell.

In addition to Salah Abdeslam, sentenced to life imprisonment in France, this new judicial appointment concerns the alleged leader of this cell, Oussama Atar, who was tried in absentia on November 13 (he is presumed dead in Syria), as well as four others convicted in the River trial, which ended in Paris at the end of June.

– “theaters of war” –

It’s Mohamed Abrini, “the man in the hat,” who left his explosives truck at Zaventem Airport before he fled, and Swede Osama Krayem, who turned around on the subway.

Also on trial are Tunisian Sofien Ayari, an accomplice in the final days of Salah Abdeslam’s escape, and Belgian-Moroccan Ali El Haddad Asufi, a close friend of the El Bakraoui brothers, two of the three “suicide bombers” who died March 22.

Four other defendants were not implicated in November 13. They are suspected of having provided material support or harbored the suicide bombers in Brussels, knowing their intentions, and are considered to have been involved in the attacks.

All face “terrorism-related killings” charges and face life sentences.

On the other hand, the victims, many of whom are supported by two associations formed in the wake of the attacks, V-Europe and Life4Brussels, see the process as an important step in their recovery.

“We hope that our suffering will be recognized” and that this “marks the beginning of something else,” Philippe Vandenberghe, a volunteer first responder who intervened at the airport and suffered from post-traumatic stress, told AFP.

Many witnesses spoke of “total chaos”, “war scenes” to describe the situation in Zaventem and Metro Maelbeek shortly after the explosions that killed sixteen people in each of the two places.

The trial will take place in the former NATO headquarters in Brussels, which will be made available to the Belgian judiciary.

Since the main courtroom only seats 170 people, seven more so-called “relay” rooms have been set up for civil parties, with video transmission of the proceedings and the possibility of remote intervention.

Reference: www.guadeloupe.franceantilles.fr

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