Timeline for prosecution in 2016 attacks trial in Brussels

A year after the judicial epilogue of November 13, 2015 in France, the trial of the March 2016 jihadist attacks in Brussels is nearing its conclusion, with prosecutors being given the floor to testify from Tuesday.

During the five days of the hearing, usually by June 6, the two federal prosecutors must identify the elements of the crime that weigh on each of the ten defendants in the file, decided by the Court of Assize in Brussels from December. Is.

Nine of them, including Frenchman Salah Abdeslam and his childhood friend from the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek Mohamed Abrini, must answer for “terrorist killings” and serve life sentences. Abdeslam has denied his involvement.

A tenth defendant, Ibrahim Farsi, suspected of helping to clear and evacuate one of the jihadist bases, is on trial for “participating in the activities of a terrorist group” and could face up to ten years in prison. Is.

On the morning of March 22, 2016, two people blew themselves up at Brussels-Zavantem International Airport, and an hour later in the European capital’s metro, killing a total of 32 people and injuring hundreds. One thousand people have joined as civil parties.

The double suicide attack, claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), was carried out by a cell operated from Syria by Belgian-Moroccan Osama Attar, which was already at the core of the November 13, 2015 attacks in France (130 dead). ).

Salah Abdeslam (G), Osama Kreim and Mohamed Abrini are led to the accused box by police during a hearing into the jihadist attacks in Brussels on April 3, 2023.

The result: six of the ten defendants in Brussels – including Abdeslam, Abrini and Attar, tried in absentia because presumed dead in Syria – are already concerned with the Paris trial, completed in June 2022.

For him a new offense would be added to the heavy punishment given in France.

– Guilty verdict in July –

Salah Abdeslam, 33, the only surviving member of the 13 November commandos, was sentenced to life imprisonment a year earlier, and Mohamed Abrini, 38, who accompanied the “death convoy” to Paris, was given life with 22 years of security was sentenced to imprisonment.

In Brussels, during six months of a trial marked by controversy (after the episode of non-compliant cubicles deemed illegal the searches of the accused with daily inspections of private parts), there were few excuses on the part of the accused and very few cells. New information about or alleged lack of monitoring by authorities.

State security – civilian intelligence in Belgium – procrastinated about allowing Attar, a jihadist veteran who lived in US prisons in Iraq in the 2000s, to return to fight in 2013 even though he was on the authorities’ radar .

Many of the defendants expressed their revulsion or even their “disgust” at the international coalition’s bombing of areas controlled by IS insurgents.

Abdeslam, he said, had to go to Syria after surviving on 13 November due to a faulty explosive belt.

Salah Abdeslam (c) and Sofin Ayari (g) in the accused's box during the 2016 jihadist attacks trial in Brussels on April 3, 2023
Salah Abdeslam (c) and Sofiane Ayari (g) in the accused’s box during the 2016 jihadist attacks trial in Brussels on April 3, 2023 (POOL/AFP – John THYS)

Federal prosecutors reiterate that they do not believe in his innocence. For the prosecution, French must have known that other attacks were being prepared in Europe after sharing the daily life of the cell’s members in Brussels until his arrest on March 18, 2016.

After the indictment, arguments will be presented from the civil parties and then from the defense for about a month.

If at least one defendant is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution will decide on the requested penalty. The move is expected for September, following a popular jury verdict on guilt in July.

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