Welcome to the fourth edition of V-Europe's newsletter in the beginning of 2023. This edition is a rather special one: Mr Adrien Masset, lawyer of V-Europe, has personally written the week's summary and next week's programme.
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The past week, by Mr Adrien MASSET
After the first presentations and testimonies of the investigating magistrates and rescue workers about the attacks at Zaventem airport just before the end of the year, the trial continued in the first days of 2023. We would have liked to continue with the same presentations and testimonies from the investigating magistrates and rescue workers - this time about the attack on Maelbeek metro station - but delays were again imposed by the accused.
On 29 December, the accused, with the exception of O. Krayem, had last obtained a summary judgment (i.e. with urgency) from a civil judge on their conditions to be transferred from Haren prison (located in the suburbs of Brussels, 10 minutes from the Justice building where the trial is taking place).
This procedure, which placed the suspects against the Belgian State, validated the conditions for transfer in terms of transfer methods (handcuffs, bulletproof vest, armoured car, blackout glasses, deafening helmet). However, it considered that, at first sight, the police could not subject the accused every morning to systematic strip searches with three knee bends, to make sure that no objects were hidden for the journey from the prison to the courthouse.
After several incidents, going as far as the hearing of the General Commissioner of the Federal Police at the Assize Court, the police decided to maintain these searches on the basis of a new circular from the Minister of Justice. At the same time, they continued producing individual, updated and reasoned reports that present a risk analysis of each of the six accused.
These reports were disturbing to hear, as Abrini mentioned a knife, a response to be planned in accordance with two other defendants, and blamed the police for mistreating 'servants of Allah'. Their proclaimed willingness to physically participate in the trial by coming to the box of the assize court out of consideration for the victims appears to be mere window-dressing.
Mr Masset intervened several times in a legal manner to express the point of view of V-Europe’s civil parties in light of the verbal demands of the defence of the accused.
The body language of the defence and the accused about the naked knee bending, as well as refusing to come to the box, appeared shamefully ridiculous when listening to the testimonies given about the attack in the Maelbeek metro station on Thursday afternoon and Friday.
The head of the Federal Police's Railway Police described the course of the terrible day of 22 March 2016, including a showcase of the videos from the surveillance cameras at Maelbeek station: the courtroom was immersed in the horror of terrorism. The head of the fire brigade, the coordinator of the medical services, two front-line firemen and the first police officer who went down into the metro station after the attack, delivered chilling and terrifying testimonies, interrupted by breathlessness because of their strong emotion.
All of these experienced police and first responders described the chaos that reigned in the first moments after the attack and the incredible scale of human and material damage. All of them are still deeply distressed and affected by what they had to live on the spot.
On Friday, President Massart, who is presiding over the proceedings in a remarkable manner, imposed a forcible transfer of the accused to Justitia (by reference to the order for the taking of bodies). However, the defendants have the right to remain in the cell at Justitia rather than sit in the box. Only Krayem preferred to stay in the cell at Justitia. The other accused witnessed the testimonies without reacting.
The trial on the merits is now well underway, with 31 of the 36 jurors still very attentive and sometimes shaken by humanly difficult to hear details; all of this in the presence of an audience and several victims that can be accommodate the room Popelin 1 (one of the eight available rooms); this audience and these victims are remarkable for their dignity.
The functioning of the web radio was praised by those who used it.
The President announced that the trial had, in the end, only been delayed by more or less two days, which is reassuring given the number of months still to come.
The hearings on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 January will be difficult as the investigators who carried out the findings at Maelbeek station and the investigating judges will be heard in detail on the presentation of the dead and injured victims at Maelbeek. The rest of the week will be devoted to the first investigative tasks, firstly about Zaventem, then about Maelbeek.
No juror left the jury during the week. The trial schedule has been completely changed due to delays related to the issue of transfer conditions. The programme is expected to be delayed by 1.5 to 2.5 days. The new schedule will then be posted on the website’s calendar page.
Support and representation
V-Europe provides support to any victim of terrorism who requests it. At least one of our coordinators is present every day at the trial, wearing a distinctive white jacket with the V-Europe logo on the back. Feel free to let them know you are there if you wish. More information about our coordinators can be found on the V-Europe website, by calling this number:
Do you want to be represented at the trial? V-Europe has set up a group of lawyers who defend the victims during the trial. Guillaume Lys, Nicolas Estienne, Adrien Masset and Sanne de Clerck are joining forces to defend you during this long trial. More information here or by email at email@example.com
We want to hear your opinion!
Do you have any advice or remarks to improve the newsletter? Do not hesitate to send an e-mail to Florian Jehin: firstname.lastname@example.org.