Seventh week of the trial
Newsletter (week of 23/01/2023)

Welcome to the seventh 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. He first offers a detailed description of the intervention of the Islamologists (19 and 23 January), before giving an account of the events of the week.

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Testimony of Islamologists, by Adrien Masset

Last week, on Thursday 19 January, Islamologist Mohamed FAHMI, an academic working for the Belgian police, delivered a very interesting and enlightening presentation on Islam and the aberrations that led to the wave of attacks against the West.

He first presented Islam as a monotheistic religion whose God Allah guides humans to the right path leading to paradise; scholars of Islam (ulama) have interpreted the Koran and the hadiths (texts relating to the acts and words of the Prophet Muhammad); some of them are self-proclaimed ulama; some scholars have created the sharia, a set of evolving rules of conduct for Muslims while issuing legal opinions (fatwa) in the form of instructions. Islam is composed of a majority of Sunnis and a minority of Shiites; Salafism is a Sunni rigorist current.

Mohamed FAHMI then explained the establishment of Islam in Belgium following the arrival of a workforce mainly from Morocco and Turkey; the Muslim presence is estimated at 7% of the population. Belgium had to adapt to the presence of Islam, which led to some challenges: integration issues, economic and political issues (for example, pro-Palestinian demonstrations) and issues related to preaching. It has further been established that the Salafism was spread in Belgium because of the intervention of Saudi Arabia at the Cinquantenaire pavilion in Brussels.

The major historical milestones were: 

  • 1979 the conflict in Afghanistan with the first jihadist combat zone
  • 1989 the departure of several Belgian residents to Afghanistan, as well as the question of the headscarf in public schools and the wearing of the veil in public establishments
  • the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini of the Islamic Republic of Iran against Salman Rushdie 
  • the 1980s with the rise of Muslim fundamentalism
  • the 1990s with the difficult neighbourhoods called banlieues in France 
  • from the mid-1990s onwards: the appearance of jihadist networks in Belgium (e.g. GIA (Algerian), the GICM (Moroccan)), while on the one hand observing a new Muslim discourse addressing young people in Belgium in French (e.g. Tarik Ramadan) and, on the other hand, the emergence of a new Muslim movement in the United States. 
  • the use of globalisation technology through virtual Islam manipulated by Saudi Arabia (satellite channels and mobile phones)
  • 2001 international reaction against the 11 September attacks in New York perpetrated by Al Qaeda, which launched the armed world jihad
  • Belgian concerns about two networks: the one that led to the assassination of Commander Massoud by two perpetrators from Belgium and the attempt by Nizar Trabelsi against the military base of Kleine Brogel
  • 2003 the US invades Iraq
  • Attacks against the West in Madrid, London, ... 
  • 2010 Sarkozy bans the wearing of the full veil and the burqua
  • the AKP makes progress in Turkey
  • years of Arab springs with popular revolutions as in Tunisia, Syria, ... 
  • appearance of armed groups in Syria, in which Belgian recruits will also join (foreign terrorist fighters).

The Islamologist FAHMI describes the war in Syria, the foundations of which are to be found in the rise of the national-socialist Baath party, transformed into the dynasty of the El Assad family by a coup d'état in the 1970s, with an authoritarian and brutal regime. The son Bashar was installed in power from the Shiite Alawite branch. He favours this community in the positions of responsibility in Syria and allies himself with certain foreign states through clientelism. The consequences are very negative in Syria with a massive rural exodus and the arrival of famines. The consequent Syrian revolution during the Arab Spring was severely repressed and led to the emergence of the Islamic State (IS), which claims to be an armed jihadist: armed violence is sacralised to achieve the triumph of Islam through a universal Salafism, not quietist (only religious), not political (with parties or groups like Sharia4Belgium) but revolutionary or jihadist (sacralised armed violence with the figure of the fighter dying as a martyr to reach paradise; everything is allowed in the armed jihad).

The Islamologist continues with an analysis of the Islamic State, its founder Al-Zarqawi, who fought alongside Bin Laden in Afghanistan and its first leader is Al-Baghdadi. The ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) was defeated in 2009 in Iraq by Bush's American forces, but, taking advantage of the anarchy resulting from the Arab Spring, the ISIL became the Islamic State, which proclaimed its Caliphate in Mosul from June 2014. IS's territories in Syria and Iraq are 6x the size of England and the ISIS derives its main income from oil. 

In 2015, there were waves of attacks in Tunisia and Paris.

Mohamed FAHMI further explains that from the summer of 2014 onwards, the international coalition led by President Obama carried out a series of bombings to fight IS. Belgium was associated with this coalition, and it was this involvement that caused some Belgians to join IS.

A new trend emerged in 2011 in the engagement of these foreign fighters: before 2011, they were people from the first generation - Arabic-speaking, conscious and with a good knowledge of Islam - surfing on the Al Qaeda trend. While from 2011 onwards, these were people from the second or third generation, with a poor knowledge of Islam, Arabic, and a low level of awareness, surfing on the IS trend: this trend was observed among most foreign fighters coming from all European countries.

The motivation for departure is due to several factors, which can be cumulatively or alternatively: ideology (convinced fighters), deviance (desires to be externalised, such as fighting, handling weapons, these people often have psychological problems), disorientation (young people who are lost, in search of something), search for meaning (to redeem themselves, such as those who are gone into hiding or former detainees), politicisation (through concerns about the situation in Iraq), or even influence (through solidarity based on friendship, family or love). Mohamed FAHMI especially notes that the individual profile sheets for Belkaïd and Oussama Atar correspond fully with this tendency of a low knowledge of Islam.

He further insists on the precision with which IS had planned a programme of religious education (indoctrination) and military training; the assignment of each arrival was chosen or assigned based on the recommendations that accompanied the person arriving; the passport was confiscated. IS was determined to structure itself as a state. Encrypted networks, such as Telegram, were used from 2015-2016. The capital was sometimes Raqqa, sometimes Mosul.

From 2014 to 2016, IS was the richest terrorist organisation in the world: its revenues came from the sale of oil to Bashar Al-Assad, as well as via Turkey through cheaper networks; phosphate mining; taxes levied; smuggling of antiques; the hostage market; stockpiles of weapons abandoned by national armies. The money for those sent abroad was given to them in cash or via the hawala system. It is noted that before 2016, Turkey was lax towards IS. Captagon pills were used by IS for their fighters.

The past week, by Adrien Masset

Islamologist FAHMI continued his presentation on Monday 23 January by presenting IS’s claims, which were broadcast in the courtroom. He clarified recurring terms in the speech, such as kouffar (disbeliever) and kunya (alias). 

He pointed out that for IS jihadists, the victims of the attacks deserve no consideration because they are complicit in the war waged by the West against IS.

The day of Monday 23 January continued with the presentation of the technical investigation carried out by the SEDEE/DOVOO deminers and ended with a presentation on the safe house of Dries Street in Forest, the place where police raided on March 15, 2016. A shooting occurred, policemen were wounded, Mohammed BELKAID was killed by a police shot (Algerian who went to Syria, especially with Krayem), and Salah ABDESLAM and Sofien AYARI fled through a window (they were arrested on 18 March 2016 and sentenced in April 2018 by the Brussels Correctional Court to a 20-year prison sentence).

The beginning of the hearing on Tuesday 24 January was interrupted by the FARISI brothers, who appeared without being detained: Ibrahim FARISI, in a state of depression due to alcohol and medication, spoke unintelligible words and the police had to intervene: his lawyer, Mr. CARETTE, informed the court that he no longer had a mandate to defend his client, which obliged the President, after consultation with the President of the Bar Association, to appoint him again to defend his client.

Later in the day, a legal battle unfolded because the defence of SALAH and AYARI contested that the case on the Brussels attacks, whose infractional period began on 2 December 2015 (on the day the flat in rue Max Roos was rented) could be relevant for the case on the shooting in Rue du Dries, since their two clients had already been tried. The difficulty lies in the fact that the judgement on the Rue du Dries dealt with the acts of attempted murder of police officers in a terrorist context and the acts of carrying weapons; and not with the acts of participation in the activities of a terrorist group. It appears that these acts of participation in the activities of a terrorist group were separated by order of the Council Chamber and that Ms. Panou's file on the matter was handed over to the Federal Prosecutor's Office, which did not make any further progress. It was noted that the Council Chamber had not dismissed the investigating judge in charge of these specific participation facts. This legal question, which only concerns the court itself and not the jury, will certainly be discussed during the pleadings: one can already object that this particular issue should have been raised during the preliminary hearing held in September last year.

The SEDEE officer described in detail the objects found on Rue du Dries and concluded that there were no similarities between the igniters found on Rue du Dries and those used in Zaventem and Maelbeek.

The chief of investigation MOITROUX then highlighted the similarities between the Dries and Max Roos locations: rental methods, papillary and genetic traces of several common stakeholders, found objects.

This was followed by a long presentation on the analysis of the Max Roos PC: it was a PC that very quickly became crucial to the investigation. On the morning of the attacks, garbage collectors emptied the bins left in Rue Max Roos (the flat from which the Zaventem suicide bombers left), found two PCs and a mobile phone, considered that one of them was broken and threw it into the truck dumpster, while keeping the other PC and mobile phone. This other PC opens without a password, they look at it and click on a video that includes jihadist remarks that they connect, in the morning, with the deployment of police forces around the Rue Max Roos (this hideout was discovered by the testimony of the taximan, who drove the suicide bombers to Zaventem). They handed over the ticket and the mobile phone to the police at 11.30 am.

The FCCU (Federal Computer Crime Unit) managed to make this computer "talk" by also finding the files and audios that had been deleted (the last ones were from that very morning at 6.39 am) and also the files encrypted by a dedicated software still used the day before the attacks. The FCCU was also able to identify the devices that were connected to this computer, including USB sticks.

This PC was used from 14.08.15 to 22.03.16 and, therefore, also during the period of the Paris attacks of 13.11.15, for which its analysis was very useful.

For the Brussels investigation, this PC allowed the retention of two audio recordings addressed to Abu Ahmed (i.e. Oussama ATAR), wills, claims, identification of various potential targets, encrypted and anonymised documents and correspondence between the Max Roos PC and the PC found in the Rue du Dries.

On Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 January, we listened to and analysed in detail two audios recorded on this PC, put on a USB key and then sent to Atar in Raqqa via, certainly, temporary messaging from unidentified cybercafés: the names identified in these audios imply knowledge of kunyas (aliases):

  • The first audio dates from 13, 14 or 15 March 2016 and is 16 minutes long. It carries the voice of Najim LAACHRAOUI, one of the Zaventem suicide bombers: technical details on TATP are discussed; preference for attacks is given to France, especially to cancel the 2016 Euro Football Cup, even if there are "good targets" in Belgium. Laachraoui clarifies to Atar that the intention is not to strike in Belgium because the photos of the El Bakraoui brothers would be immediately released and, if brothers are still operational in France, it is better to keep Belgium as a fallback country because there are housing facilities; it is however Atar who must decide because he is the emir.
  • The second audio dates from 21 March 2016 (the day before the attacks), is 7 minutes long and features the voices of Najim LAACHRAOUI, Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI and a third. The decision to strike the next day, in Zaventem (because a brother informed of early flights to the US, Israel and Russia) and in the metro lines, is taken (without being able to wait for the agreement of the Emir) to make the most victims, because they do not have any more hideouts (they also mention that the photo of the El Bakraoui brothers is in the press since 18 March) and attacking better than rotting in a cell. It seems that Bilal EL MAKHOUKI is the brother designated to hand over the arms (which were already taken away; he admitted having done so on 21 March without giving the destination), and that the remaining money must be used for the brothers who have already worked and whom they name (Nemmouche, Bakkali and the perpatrator of the attack in the Thalys). It is understood that Khalid El Bakraoui and Krayem are in another hideout (Rue des Casernes) from where they will also leave: 5 suicide bombers are mentioned. Other audios are listened to: demands, propaganda songs, wills, the letter “to my mother”, etc. It is also understood that Laachraoui and I. El Bakraoui do not understand that Abdeslam and Ayari were able to flee Rue du Dries, leaving weapons behind and without hiding place.

The hearing of Thursday 25 January was entirely devoted to the presentation of the accused Ali EL HADDAD ASUFI ( lawyer Mr. DE TAYE) who was heard more than 20 times, including in the investigation in Paris (where he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for logistical assistance). The surveillance cameras show him doing the shopping for the occupants of the hideout in the Rue des Casernes, rented by his friend Smail FARISI. His school friend Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI was staying there. A TDK USB key was found during a search of EL HADDAD ASUFI, and it is known that this stick was connected to the PC Max Roos on 21 March at 22:57. In addition to nearly fifteen pornographic films, the USB stick also includes Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI's will and his letter "to my mother". Ali EL HADDAD ASUFI was arrested on 24 March 2016. The investigation shows that he knows Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI (he is the man of trust), Smail FARISI and various protagonists.

In the presence of an attentive jury (where no additional departures were noted), the trial will continue during the weeks of 30 January to Wednesday 8 February with the presentation of the various defendants. The questioning of witnesses will begin on Wednesday 8 February in the afternoon or on Thursday 9 February. More details follow in the next section.

The coming week (30.01.2023)

The programme for the coming week has changed due to the delays in the trial, as well as the absence of Ibrahim Farisi's lawyer on Monday 30 January. The week will start on Monday 30 January with the presentation of Smail Farisi, as well as that of Ibrahim El Bakraoui. Tuesday 31 January will be devoted to Najim Laachraoui and Khalid El Bakraoui. Mohamed Abrini will be presented on Wednesday 1 February. Ibrahim Farisi and Bilal El Makhouki will be presented on Thursday 2 February. Osama Krayem will be presented on the following Monday, if the programme is respected.

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: +32 10 86 79 98 or by email:

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

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:

Sixth week of the trial
Newsletter (week of 16/01/2023)