Belgium begins trial in 2016 Brussels terror attacks
Belgium has commenced trial of ten men accused of playing a role in the 2016 Brussels terror attacks that killed 32 people and injured over 300.
The presiding judge Laurence Massart will confirm the identity of all parties to the case on Monday, including the defendants and lawyers representing around 1,000 people affected by the attacks claimed by Islamic State.
The Brussels bombings’ trial has clear links to the French trial over the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Six of the Brussels accused were sentenced to jail terms of between 10 years and life in France in June, but the Belgian trial will be different in that it will be settled by a jury not judges.
Nine men are charged with multiple murders and attempted murders in a terrorist context, with potential life sentences, and all 10 with participating in the activities of a terrorist group.
They include Mohamed Abrini, who prosecutors say went to the airport with two suicide bombers, but fled without detonating his suitcase of explosives, and Osama Krayem, a Swedish national accused of planning to be a second bomber on Brussels’ metro.
Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the Paris trial, is also an accused, along with others prosecutors say hosted or helped certain attackers. One of the 10, presumed killed in Syria, will be tried in absentia.
In accordance with Belgium court procedure, the defendants have not declared whether they are innocent or guilty.
Prosecutors are expected to start reading from the 486-page indictment on Tuesday before hearings of some 370 experts and witnesses can begin.
The twin bombings at Brussels Airport and a third bomb on the city’s metro on March 22, 2016 killed 15 men and 17 women – Belgians, Americans, Dutch, Swedish and nationals of Britain China, France, Germany, India, Peru and Poland, many based in Brussels, the home to EU institutions and military alliance NATO.
The trial, taking place in a specially constructed court in NATO’s former headquarters in the north of the Belgian capital, is expected to last seven months and is estimated to cost at least 35 million euros ($36.9 million).