Welcome to the ninth edition of the V-Europe newsletter. This week’s newsletter is written by Adrien Masset, a lawyer for many civil parties during this trial as a member of V-Europe’s defence team.
Would you like to receive this newsletter by e-mail? Please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to Florian Jehin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of contents
- Presentation of the accused
- Ossama KRAYEM
- Hervé BAYINGANA MUHIRWA
- Ibrahim FARISI
- Sofien AYARI
- Salah ABDESLAM
- Oussama ATAR
- Questions to investigators and witnesses
Presentation of the accused Ossama KRAYEM
Monday 6 February was entirely devoted to the presentation of the accused Ossama KRAYEM (counsel: Me Gisèle STUYCK), known as Abu Omar.
Originally from Sweden where he was even cited as an example of integration through sport (Malmö football club), he later converted and left for Syria where he stayed for 1.5 years.
He was present at Châtelet on 03/10/15 in the presence of BAKKALI and is linked to the Paris attacks. KRAYEM was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. KRAYEM lives in hiding, always in the presence of AYARI, in Charleroi and Schaerbeek (rue Henri Berger) until the Paris attacks. His presence is noted from 03/11/15 in the various hideouts in Brussels (Exposition, Dries, Roos, Casernes, Tivoli).
On 13/11/15, the day of the Paris attacks, he made a return trip to Schiphol airport to return to rue Henri Berger and then to the subsequent hideouts. On 29/02/16, he leaves the rue du Dries with Khalid EL BAKRAOUI, Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI, ABRINI, LAACHRAOUI, towards the rue Max Roos. The presence of weapons is noted. The first logistical purchases begin on 03/03/16 at Blokker. He takes part in the purchase of cans. On 16/03/16, he arrives at the Rue des Casernes and the photos show a bandage on his cheek which he denies being linked to the small fire in Rue Max Roos as ABRINI says.
He explains that there is a precipitation in the team because of the discovery of the Rue du Dries and the publication of the photos of the EL BAKRAOUI brothers: without this precipitation, there would have been many more attacks and much better prepared.
After the Maelbeek attack, he returns to the rue Tivoli at BAYINGANA where he finds ABRINI. He is located insofar as on 03/04/16, a communication with the identifier oz.oz. is identified (and attributed to BAYINGANA), an observation is set up on BAYINGANA's flat in rue Tivoli. On 04/04/16, the same email address contacts the brother who lives in Sweden to convince him to come and get him. He is arrested on 08/04/16.
During the re-enactment, he says that he went out with the bags from which the threads were coming out, without them giving off a smell. He explains how he emptied the powder from the bag after the Maelbeek attack. He says that Khalid EL BAKRAOUI told him on the way to the metro that the explosions had already taken place in Zaventem, without it being coordinated. He did not make the connection when discovered the claim by the EI. He said he told Khalid EL BAKRAOUI of his intention to stop the project when they were between the metro entrance and the platforms.
He said that he had not written a will.
The morality investigation could not be developed as his family is in Sweden. Chillingly, the investigators mentioned that during this investigation, KRAYEM states:
"Since I went to Syria and I am in prison, I have lost a lot of my humanity. There is a big problem because if I kill someone, a father or a mother who has children, I would not feel anything. My whole life is neutral, like this interview with you or like the visit of my parents. When I go to French class, I don't know what I can or cannot say to my classmates. If I go to court and they tell me I'm getting 20 or 50 years, for me it's neutral. All the feelings are gone."
Presentation of the accused Hervé BAYINGANA MUHIRWA
The day of Tuesday 7 February was partly devoted to the presentation of the accused Hervé BAYINGANA MUHIRWA (counsel: Me Vincent LURQUIN), known as Abou Amin, which he has always contested.
He is originally from Rwanda, came to Belgium, naturalized Belgian, 30 years old at the time of the facts, single without children, converted (Abdelkarim) and has a baccalaureate for social promotion.
The investigation focused on him because of a note from State Security about the aforementioned oz.oz. connection.
BAYINGANA's car was seized during the arrest on 08/04/16 at 11:30 am in the presence of KRAYEM, followed by a search in the rue Tivoli in Laeken, his hearings and the subsequent investigation with the computer and telephone records.
He had been working for several months as a night watchman in a Red Cross reception centre for asylum seekers in Jette: he was on a scheduled rest period from 21/03/16 at 7:19 am until 24/03/16 when he resumed his service at 9:14 pm.
He forms a real duo with Bilal EL MAKHOUKHI (their 2 kunya are mentioned on their telephone number on a document found in rue Max Roos) who has a circle of friends in which some of Najim LAACHRAOUI's relatives gravitate.
A role of steward is attributed to him. As a logistician, he bought shelves, clothes, and transported members of the cell, especially KRAYEM and ABRINI, whom he accommodated before and after the Brussels attacks.
In a phone tap there is mention of a backpack to be brought by a friend for KRAYEM who had only come with plastic bags. The backpack brought by the friend was too small.
He has no criminal record. He was noted in administrative reports in 2014, notably with Bilal EL MAKHOUKHI. He had previously worked in a Jennifer clothing shop where several well-known names also worked.
The Amin kunya, denied by him, is attributed to him based on several elements:
- the statements of KRAYEM and ABRINI
- the document found in rue Max Roos
- elements of the audio recordings found in the Max Roos computer, which refer to him in the sentences spoken between 13 and 15/03/16 "we have one more brother in logistics" and on 21/03 "this brother has already worked", which would refer to the hosting of KRAYEM and ABDESLAM (who had been brought by Bilal EL MAKHOUKHI) at BAYINGANA's flat in rue Tivoli, after the shooting on 15/03/16 in rue du Dries
- the analysis of the computer found at his home in rue Tivoli and in which there were searches for "Amin" which he does not explain
It is noted that BAYINGANA has evolved in his statements and that contradictions remain. He had to concede knowing Najim LAACHRAOUI.
He remained consistent in saying that he had not pledged allegiance to the EI, even though anachids were found in his mobile phone, claiming that they were downloaded on the advice of friends. He does not understand Arabic.
The morality survey describes him as a well-liked co-worker, even towards women, without practicing Islam, opposed to violence. He refrains from meeting other detainees, to avoid the accusation of proselytising.
The psychological expertise describes him as smooth and in a role of self-control.
Presentation of the accused Ibrahim FARISI
The day of Tuesday 7 February continued with the presentation of the accused Ibrahim FARISI (counsel appointed by the Court: Me Xavier CARETTE), who appeared free.
He is being prosecuted for a single charge, namely participation in the activities of a terrorist group.
His image appears from 23/03/16 in the rue des Casernes.
His criminal record only includes numerous driving convictions. He is a taxi driver.
He knows no other protagonist than his brother Ismaïl. He shares with his brother the nickname "fumier".
He says that he had to move in with Smaïl to escape the family hubbub and sleep during the day after his nights as a taximan: he slept there from 1 to 4/10/15, without being seen at the address again until 23/03/16: his brother would have told him to move out, which he thought was so that he could quietly bring back a girlfriend (this was actually for the installation of Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI, who arrived on 3 or 4/10/15). However, according to the video footage, they did not meet.
He helped his brother to move to the rue des Casernes, from 23/03/16, and they threw everything away at the Petits Riens (Muslim section): he can be seen there for 4 minutes, between 6:28pm and 6:32pm with a latex glove, which he claims was covering a handkerchief on his bloody hand so as not to stain the lift door. According to Me Carette, Smaïl was not questioned about the said glove because Smaïl was not present at that time.
He is apparently not the recipient of the "fumier" audio.
Presentation of the accused Sofien AYARI
The day of Tuesday 7 February continued with the presentation of the accused Sofien AYARI (counsel: Me Isa GULTASLAR), who, like ABDESLAM, was detained during the attacks of 22/03/16 because he was arrested after his escape from the rue du Dries.
His guilt was only investigated later, based on additional orders from the Federal Prosecutor's Office on 25/05/18, which makes the file less complete.
He always used his right to remain silent, even for the character investigation, where only his statements in the Paris and Rue du Dries files were taken.
He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in the rue du Dries case.
He was sentenced by the Paris Assize Court to 30 years imprisonment, like KRAYEM, for having made the trip to Schiphol on 13/11/16 (the judgment of the Paris Assize Court, page 51, states that they made this trip because they had been commissioned to do so). He lived in the various hideouts and must have known about the various attack projects.
This Tunisian, single, childless, whose kunya is Abu Hamza (and sometimes Abu Hamed according to KRAYEM) lived in Syria in June and July 2015 (he was wounded in the jaw) where he was part of the same brigade as KRAYEM and came back to Europe where ABDESLAM went to pick him and KRAYEM up in Ulm (Germany) to bring them back to Brussels in rue Henri Berger in Schaerbeek (where the bombs for Paris were prepared). He then went to a hideout in Charleroi.
All the protagonists of the Paris and Brussels files went through these same hideouts (rue Henri Berger in Schaerbeek, avenue de l'Exposition in Jette, rue du Dries in Brussels where the lease begins on 02/12/15, the start of the alleged offence period for Brussels), and then for some of them, after some tension, rue Max Roos). He is arrested on 18/03/16 a few days after the shooting in the rue du Dries.
ABRINI said that ABDESLAM and all those who were in the hideouts were aware of the plans to participate: if you are in the hideouts, it is because you were planned for the attacks. There was no manufacture of TATP for Brussels before the rue Max Roos where the preparation of the attacks in Brussels really began. ABRINI and KRAYEM say that AYARI and ABDESLAM, who did not come to rue Max Roos, had nothing to do with the Brussels attacks.
No will of AYARI was found.
Presentation of the accused Salah ABDESLAM
The day of Tuesday 7 February continued with the presentation of the accused Salah ABDESLAM (counsel: Delphine PACI and Michel BOUCHAT), who, like AYARI, was detained during the attacks of 22/03/16, having been arrested after his escape from the rue du Dries.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Paris. He is the only survivor of the Paris attacks. He had dropped off 3 suicide bombers at the Stade de France before leaving and then fleeing.
His kunya is Abou Abderrahman. An undated letter was found in the PC Max Roos and would be possibly intended to the Emir Oussama ATAR: ABDESLAM complains that his belt did not work in Paris because it was defective, he returned to Brussels to finish the work and asked to be provided with a better equipment.
State Security mentioned his unsigned will and the envelope that was lost during the escape from the Rue du Dries.
He has always made use of his right to remain silent about the Brussels attacks, with the only repeated clarification that he had nothing to do with these attacks because he was in prison. For the Paris attacks, there is only one hearing in which he expresses himself.
He has had a fiancée since 2010. His engagement was celebrated on 15/10/15 in the presence of ABRINI.
ABDESLAM acted as a driver since he made a dozen trips to Hungary, Germany, ... to look for people returning from Syria, some of whom will be the terrorist expedition in Paris.
He returned from Paris on 14/11/15 to Belgium and went through the hideouts in rue Berger, av. Exposition and rue Dries.
The three letters written by ABDESLAM were read. They were written for his mother, his sister and his fiancée Yasmina to whom he had promised marriage that he had to decline because Allah had decided otherwise.
He was later partially charged by the examining magistrate for the Brussels attacks.
The day of Tuesday 7 February was then interrupted for more than an hour and a half due to a break in the electrical cables in the Justitia building, before resuming with some questions to the four witnesses, firemen and members of the emergency services, the first responders: the Federal Prosecutor thanked them for their intervention. A lawyer for L4B asked a few questions about the security perimeter and asked for clarifications that were not relevant to the truth.
Presentation of the accused Oussama ATAR
The day of Tuesday 7 February ended with the beginning of the presentation of the accused Oussama ATAR (supposedly deceased and leaving without counsel), kunya Abu Ahmed (the chemist) or even Abu Yaser al-Baljeki or al-Iraqi.
ATAR, who is the cousin of the EL BAKRAOUI brothers whom he visited a lot in prison in 2012-2013 during their incarceration (and radicalisation), left for Iraq in 2004 where he was arrested by the coalition forces in 2005 and sentenced in 2007 to a life sentence later reduced to 10 years imprisonment. He is notably staying in the American prison of Abu Ghraib near Baghdad. Upon acceptance of a passport by Belgian Foreign Affairs as a result of an intense campaign orchestrated by his family and some public figures, - who put forward his medical problems -, he was able to return to Belgium in 2012 where he was presented, upon his return, to an investigating judge who charged him but did not place him under arrest warrant. It was explained at the hearing that the investigating judge took into account that he had already been detained for 7 years (he was in contact with the founders of the EI) and that the facts he was accused of could be in conflict with the non bis in idem rule (you cannot prosecute someone twice for the same facts). On his return to Belgium, he did not want to be seen by a doctor and declared that he was not taking any medication and was not ill. In the morality investigation, his sisters mention health problems. He returned to Syria at the end of 2013 via Turkey after a short stay in Tunisia, where he was administratively arrested and deported, for an unremoved alert.
For many, ATAR is a "legend". He is the emir and organiser of attacks in Europe.
On Wednesday 8 February, this presentation continued, where ATAR's place in the structure of the EI was situated: at the top of the EI, the self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr AL-BAGHDADI, is surrounded by a select committee where Abu Mohammed AL ADNANI is also predominant; within the EI, there are cross-links between, on the one hand, the Office or Cell for External Operations (COPEX), headed by AL ADNANI, and, on the other hand, the Special Brigade which acts as an elite unit (the Liwa As Saddiq), also created by AL ADNANI.
The COPEX could organise attacks in Europe as well as in the Arab world, such as in Tunisia. The members of the Liwa As Saddiq were elite fighters who had proven themselves after specific training in explosives manufacturing, hostage management and the use of encrypted communication technology. The Liwa As Saddiq was allegedly led by ATAR and included KRAYEM and LAACHRAOUI.
In view of the elements presented in the investigation, Abu Mohamed AL ADNANI, "spokesman" of the EI and "director of external operations", appears to be the "boss", the person ultimately responsible for the Brussels and Paris attacks, under whose authority Osama ATAR created the Brussels and Paris "cells" ex-nihilo.
The link between the people of Molenbeek and Laeken would have been made by ATAR in Syria, according to KRAYEM. ATAR would have died in November or December 2017 in Syria or Iraq during drone attacks.
Within the EI, there was a requirement to wear a beard and a ban on wearing Western or commercially branded clothing. They did not wear suits or branded jeans. An EI member was distinguished from the civilian population by always being armed, wearing a "religious police" waistcoat if he was one, or by having a propagandistic function through preaching for a more ethical life.
ATAR's family stated at the morality hearing that he was covering part of the television so that the (female) presenter's bare head could not be seen.
Questions to investigators and witnesses
Thursday 9 February was devoted, as will be the case during the week of 13 to 16 February (before the week of rest), to questions and answers from the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the civil parties and the defendants' defence for the witnesses in phase 1, i.e. those who were involved in the first investigations in Zaventem and Maelbeek, and in phase 3, i.e. those who were involved in the investigation.
It was thus specified that tourniquets were placed by soldiers who used their belts, that the TATP was of a fairly similar manufacture for the two sites, and that the bolts and screws were similar on both sites.
In response to several questions from Philippe Vandenberghe, a victim of Zaventem, who was able to ask them directly in the absence of his personal counsel, the President made it clear that she understood the meaning of the questions he was asking, which were aimed at highlighting possible errors or shortcomings that might have led to the professional responsibility of the participants. She immediately made it clear that she would not ask these questions because, however understandable they may be, they fall outside the judicial remit of the Court of Assizes, which is only competent with the question of whether each of the 10 accused is guilty or innocent of the acts of which they are accused, and with nothing else.
Since all questions are filtered through the President, unlike the rules of the Paris trial, any question that is not directly related to the responsibility of the accused will be rejected and therefore not asked.
The presentations made by the investigators included more than 4,500 slides to summarise the 300 boxes of evidence: these slides (in powerpoint format) were sent to us on 12 February and are available to us.
The day of Thursday 9 February ended with the questions asked by various parties: we will remember especially:
- Pastry rolls (to speed up the drying process) were present in rue du Dries and rue Max Roos. There were only traces of TATP on the rolls in rue Max Roos
- It takes three to four people to make 130 kg of TATP
- KRAYEM specifies that he did not put the batteries on the bomb when getting to the metro. If he did not put in the two batteries, what if he puts the bag in the metro train and leaves it in the metro? If Khalid EL BAKRAOUI blows himself up and the other bag is nearby, there is a risk of "detonation by sympathy". The risk of explosion exists even without a detonator
- The airport is a "soft target" like a football stadium and a railway station because they are essential places where the public passes through. For the 2016 action plan, there was an emergency planning organisation following the Ghislenghien disaster in 2004. The concern about bomb attacks had existed since 2001, when the assassins of Commander Massoud were based in Brussels: this reality was integrated into the risk elements of the Brussels fire service. The attack on the Jewish museum in May 2014 had also prepared for this eventuality. The training courses were adapted: prioritise our actions, first stop the bleeding on the spot and then continue the care in an emergency place: war medicine was learned and lessons were learned following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010
- ABRINI's bag was abandoned in Zaventem near the Délifrance in the direction of the check-in: it is abandoned in a place where people could trip over it, with a load similar to the others. It is not easy to neutralise a bomb without knowing how it is made. On the other hand, the manipulation of the removal of the batteries that would have been done by one of the three Zaventem suicide bombers is simple. On the other hand, the risk of explosion exists in case of false manipulation, for example by touching the push button. There were batteries in the bag of the bomb found in Zaventem. An explosion is stronger when the bag is upright. There is no push button in Khalid EL BAKHRAOUI's hand in the metro, only a wire in his sleeve
- There were soldiers patrolling in Arts-Loi as part of operation 'vigilant guardian'. According to the FPS Defence: "after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, an analysis of the national security situation was made. The army was deployed to help the police to secure sensitive sites. Answer: it is the police who define sensitive sites, not the army. The Ocam does the threat analysis, then the crisis centre determines the measures, the senior management of the police receives the information, and we have a reinforcement of the defence
- The scheme of a remote control of an explosive can be very simple
- Hearing the "recipe" of the TATP described by Najim LAACHRAOUI: "What we managed to get is 60% nitric acid, for nitroglucole, can we make it from 60% nitric acid? Tell him to try it there and give us an answer. You know, we're here, we've got nothing to do, we're in the flat all day and we've got time to test it, you know, we'll see", which makes the witness say that this is military engineering, but that if the experts in the police lab were to assess its relevance, they would say that "it's no use, you'll have an excess of acid, it doesn't make sense". Excess acid may make the TATP (also known as acetone peroxide) crystals more unstable. The witness stated that the fact that LAACHRAOUI is trying shows that he does not know where he is going. He also does not use scientific terms, which suggests that he does not know where he is going and that he does not know why these tests give these results
- On questions from Me COURTOY, counsel for Smaïl FARISI, it is stated that each small bin is 12 liters, allowing a maximum of 15 kg per bin, which gives an idea of the quantity of TATP in the two bags from Maelbeek. The distance between Max Roos and Av. des Casernes covered by KRAYEM to move the bombs is 7.5 km, which meant 4 trips (one per bomb, but only two trips with a filled bag), which made the counsel say that this is very risky. To the objection of this lawyer that KRAYEM would have been more prudent to ask for help from Smaïl FARISI and, in the end, to make only one trip, the witness replies that it is even more dangerous to travel with the two bags next to each other because if one explodes next to the other, the situation is even worse (the second bomb could explode out of sympathy). The same lawyer adds that if he knows that there is TATP in the toilets, he does not throw Destop in to unblock them. It is answered that sulphuric acid mixes with water: it is a homogeneous product because there is water in sulphuric acid
- TATP has a strong smell due to the manufacturing process. Stakeholders have smelled it themselves
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.