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Trial for Brussels terror attacks begins today

16:17 12/09/2022

The preliminary hearing for the trial regarding the Brussels attacks took place on Monday, kicking off proceedings that are expected to last nine months.

Ten defendants are standing trial for the attacks at Brussels Airport and in Maelbeek metro station, which killed 32 people and injured more than 300 others. It was the worst attack in Belgium’s history.

The trial will be held in the former Nato buildings in Haren and hopes to provide answers about how the events took place and how such radicalisation can occur in Brussels, where the young attackers lived.

Nine men are facing life in prison on charges of murder, attempted murder and partipcating in the activities of a terrorist group. A tenth man is only being accused of participating in the activities of a terrorist group, which carries a lighter sentence than the others.

The prosecuting side represents more than 1,000 people who decided to file a civil suit, including people who were injured or lost loved ones during the attacks. Many of the individuals have grouped themselves into associations that represent victims.

The trial is “extremely important for the victims”, Oliva Venet, lawyer for one of the associations, told RTL.

“Answers are really the concern of the victims at this stage. Will they be able to understand? We'll never understand, but at least have information on how such acts, such violence and such suffering came about.”

Both Stib and Brussels Airport have also taken up positions as civil claimants in the case.

For security reasons, the federal prosecutor's office and police decided that the suspects will each stand in a separate glass box, which their lawyers sharply criticised, saying it prevents them from talking directly to their clients.

“They are exhibited here like animals in a cage, which immediately has an impact on the jury,” the lawyers said, adding that the accused would barely be able to understand what’s being said in court.

The presiding judge will have to decide whether the glass boxes remain or are modified or eliminated. Potential modifications could delay the trail.

While the suspects are currently spread over several prisons in Belgium, the current plan is to bring them all to the new jail in Haren for the duration of the trial. That prison does not open officially until 30 September, and it remains to be seen whether it will be operational enough to house the suspects.

No further information is being provided “for security reasons”, according to the prison service, and the suspects’ lawyers say they are similarly in the dark as to details on when any transfer will take place.

Written by Helen Lyons