Welcome to the sixth edition of the V-Europe newsletter. This week was devoted to the Max Roos safe house, the first investigative duties at Maelbeek and the beginning of the investigation itself.
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The past week
The week began on Monday 16 January with the end of Mr Delmoitiez's testimony about the search in Max Roos Street. The video of the search showing the flat after the demining units had passed through was shown. After a short break, Smail FARISI's lawyers filed submissions with the Court seeking to be able to question the witnesses after their passage, at the end of the day or at the end of each topic. The Court of Assize is obliged to respond to these submissions in writing before continuing to question the witnesses. The hearing was therefore suspended until 4.45pm, while the decision was made and the judgment written. The Presiding Judge concluded that she had no jurisdiction. After consultation with the investigating judges, the hearing was then suspended as they considered that the next testimony (details of the search and presentation of the preliminary evidence) formed a whole. All defendants were present, but Krayem decided to return to his cell. Few civil parties were present, less than 5 people. At this point, the delay is one day on the schedule.
The defence lawyers began the day on Tuesday 17 January by asking the Court to inquire of the defendants whether they had been subjected to genuflecting searches. All the detained defendants answered positively, with the exception of Abrini and Krayem who refused to answer. El Haddad Asufi showed a bruise on his shoulder, claiming that the police had used force. Krayem then returned to his cell. In terms of content, most of the day was devoted to a very comprehensive presentation of what happened in the Max Roos flat, what was found there, etc. Some jury members asked for clarification during the presentation. The presentation of the preliminary evidence (which should normally have taken place the day before) began at around 4.45pm. About ten civil parties were present.
Abdeslam's lawyer, Mr Paci, began the day on Wednesday 18 January by notifying the President of an incident during his client's transfer. He claims to have been hit, and requests that a medical examiner be appointed to examine him. Mr Paci emphasised that he did not want to delay the proceedings and therefore asked that the testimonies continue in parallel. The President also asked the usual question about genuflecting searches, to which all the defendants ( except Abrini and Krayem who did not answer) replied positively. Abdeslam explained in detail his version of the morning's incident. The President then asked the Federal Prosecutor and the civil parties' lawyers whether they considered the Court competent for the Abdeslam incident. Both parties argued that the Court did not have jurisdiction, so the President decided to continue the hearing by calling the investigating judges and witnesses. They presented the first investigative tasks in Maelbeek, including the analysis of the metro videos, the last images of the terrorist and his journey on 22 March. The heavy atmosphere in the courtroom reflected the importance and seriousness of the evidence presented to the Court. At the end of the day, a more technical presentation explained how it had been determined that Krayem was the second suicide bomber. About ten civil parties were present.
As usual, Thursday 19 December began with the President asking the defendants if they were searched naked with genuflection, which they all confirmed. Krayem, Abrini and Abdeslam then left the box. The hearing then focused on the different addresses used by the defendants, as well as on analyses of telephone and computer data. Ismail FARISI wanted to react to some of the information given in the testimony and started shouting in the courtroom, while the President told him that this was not the time to ask questions and that he would have to wait for the days set aside for that purpose. The police removed him from the courtroom for about 20 minutes to calm down. The President was careful to ensure that the jury could follow, in particular by giving them the opportunity to ask for clarification (but not to ask questions). This also allowed the civil parties to better follow this technical part which was very intense. The week ended with the start of the presentation on the Belgians and the Islamic State, talking about Islam and its different interpretations.
No jurors left the jury during the week.
A word from Guillaume Lys, V-Europe's lawyer
Here is a message from Mr Guillaume Lys, lawyer for V-Europe and many of the civil parties during this trial:
"We got to the core of the matter. The problems of search and transfer of the defendants are interfering less and less with the debates until they fade away. It is true that Salah Abdeslam complained about tensions with a police officer. But this kept the media more occupied than the trial court. Now the investigation is unfolding before our eyes. The Max Roos hideout. The flat that served as a production site for TATP. We were told about the searches that were carried out on the spot, about the DNA of the accused found on various objects that were discovered. We then looked at another hideout, the flat in Rue des Casernes. The links between the safe houses. Their functions. The various occupants. And what happened there on 22 March 2016. The investigative work, which has been outstanding, has been remarkable. The investigators are thorough and precise, delivering the fruits of their labours with detail and accuracy. Nothing was left to chance. We now know more about the specific responsibilities of each defendant. The week ended with an important insight: the problem of violent Islamic radicalism. After having analysed the facts committed, we are now interested in what motivated them. The truth continues to be built up in the course of the presentations, which will resume next week with several experts who will talk about the roots of the terrorist phenomenon.”
The coming week
The trial will continue next week with the end of the presentation about the Belgians and the Islamic State. The same witnesses will then present the demands of the attacks. The SEDEE will present its technical investigation and Monday will end with the Dries file and the deminers' intervention. The presentation of the CP found in rue Max Roos will take place all day on Tuesday 24 January. Wednesday 25 January will be devoted to the presentation of the accused El Haddad Asufi Ali. The Farisi brothers will be presented on the morning of Thursday 26 January, while El Bakraoui Ibrahim will be presented in the afternoon.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to hear your opinion!
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