‘We are waiting for answers’: Belgium’s largest terror trial begins in Brussels

The bombing took place in 2016, killing 32 and injuring over 300

Eleanor Sly
Monday 05 December 2022 16:16 GMT
Defendant Salah Abdeslam arrives under police escort for the trial of alleged jihadists
Defendant Salah Abdeslam arrives under police escort for the trial of alleged jihadists (Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

The trial of 10 men accused of being involved in the 2016 Brussels Islamist suicide bombings began on Monday.

The largest trial in Belgian history is set to last for seven months following the attack over six years ago which killed 32 and injured more than 300.

The trial has revived painful memories for those who lost loved ones, were injured or who witnessed twin bombings at the airport and a third bomb which went off on the metro on 22 March 2016.

Around 1,000 people have registered to be represented in the hearings.

Christelle Giovannetti now wears hearing aids due to injuries in the metro bombing. She told reporters before the trial began: “I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night.”

Meanwhile Sylvie Ingels, who was near the first airport bomb, said that in recent days she had experienced repeated nightmares.

“If I come today it’s to make this step and go beyond my fears. It’s important to be here. It’s their trial but also ours. We are waiting for some answers,” she said.

Nine of the accused are charged with multiple murders and attempted murders in a terrorist context. They face potential life sentences.

All 10 are accused of participating in the activities of a terrorist group.

One of the group will be on trial in absentia, but is thought to have been killed in Syria.

Presiding judge Laurence Massart confirmed the identity of the defendants. All except Osama Krayem, a Swedish national accused of planning to be a second bomber at the metro, responded to her questions.

The trial will be determined by a jury, rather than by judges.

The Brussels bombings were claimed by Islamic State.

They killed 15 men and 17 women, who came from Belgium, the United States, Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Peru and Poland.

Many of them were based in Brussels, the city which is home to EU institutions and Nato.

Three suicide attackers also died in the bombs.

One those on trial is Mohamed Abrini, who prosecutors say travelled to the airport with two suicide bombers. He fled without detonating his suitcase of explosives.

Salah Abdeslam is also on trial in Brussels.

The defendants have not declared whether they are guilty or innocent, as is custom in Belgian law (BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

In accordance with court procedure in Belgium, the defendants have not declared whether they are guilty or innocent.

It is expected that prosecutors will start reading from the 486-page indictment on Tuesday, prior to the start of hearings of some 370 experts and witnesses.

The trial is being held in the former headquarters of Nato and is estimated to cost at least €35m (£30m).

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