at the trial of the Brussels attacks, an overwhelmed assize court
After weeks of hearings, Belgian justice wonders if it will really be able to carry out the trial described as “historic” of the members of the terrorist cell which caused the death of thirty-two people at the airport de Zaventem and at the Maelbeek metro, on March 22, 2016.
Monday January 9, more than a month after the start of the trial – which should have actually started in September 2022, but was delayed following an initial controversy over the conditions of appearance of the accused – the jury popular plunged into the harsh reality of the facts. Witnesses, members of the demining services and the criminal police, revealed to them the terrible images of the Maelbeek station, devastated by the bomb carried by the suicide bomber Khalid El Bakraoui.
Tangled, dismembered, decapitated bodies in the middle of a jumble of objects: jurors lowered their eyes, relatives of the victims were paralyzed, a leaden screed fell on the room of the Justitia building. “I had experience of the attacks in Afghanistan, but this was a descent into hell”said an officer.
” The situation is serious “
The seriousness of the facts, the serious shortcomings which enabled the terrorists to work, in Belgium, in the preparation of these attacks but also of those of November 13, 2015 in Paris and Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), the the desire of the representatives of the victims to hear the defendants express themselves, as well as the apparent desire of some of them to speak: all this should have been, from the start, at the heart of the hearings. Laurence Massart, the president of the Brussels Assize Court, understood that it was so but, on January 3, she let go: ” The situation is serious. »
Confronted with the commissioner general of the federal police, called to the rescue to try to settle an issue that has polluted the debates for four weeks, she could hardly hide her nervousness. Especially since another police official had already refused to provide explanations on the same problem, namely the stripping and anal searches imposed daily on the seven accused before their transfer to the palace (two appear free, one another, Osama Atar, presumed dead in Syria, is tried in absentia).
“We have to unblock the situation, it cannot continue like this”declared the magistrate to the Commissioner General, entrenched behind a ministerial directive which sets the conditions under which these searches are carried out. Skillfully denounced by the defendants, who quickly refused to appear at the hearing, these measures were deemed illegal by a civil court. They should therefore, in theory, have had to stop, but they continue to be practiced in the name of security imperatives.
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