Welcome to the tenth 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. The week was entirely devoted to questions from the different parties to the investigators and examining magistrates. The jury still consists of 31 jurors, with no more absentees for several weeks.
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Table of contents
- Questions from the Federal Prosecutor's Office
- Questions from the civil parties
- Questions from the lawyers of the accused
- The next weeks
Questions from the Federal Prosecutor's Office
On Monday 13 February, the Federal Prosecutor's Office asked several questions, from which it will be noted that:
- There were two files on the PC Dries that were not accessible for the investigators, titled: "port of Antwerp" (document created on 31/01/16) and "acetone peroxide" (another name for TATP).
- There is no evidence of terrorism related illegal activities in AYARI's case.
- ABRINI did not tell his family or girlfriend, neither before leaving or after returning, that he wanted to go and visit his brother's grave. He did not bring back any photographs. The judgment of the Paris Court of Assizes said that it was not convinced by this explanation of the trip.
- ABRINI declared on 03/09/18 before the investigating judge (IJ) PANOU "Why having accepted? My mother asked me the same thing. I was offered to stay in the flat with false papers (which I chose) or to go all the way."
- Rented hideouts after the Paris attacks: Dries (02/12/15) then Max Roos (21/01/16) and stay without renting in rue Tivoli.
- About Ali EL HADDAD ASUFI: in November 2015 and December 2015, until the last date of 08/01/16, it has been noted that for both periods he spent more than 15 hours in the Rue des Casernes in Etterbeek. EL HADDAD ASUFI was arrested for the first time on 24/03/16 and a second time on 09/06/16. Between these dates, he deleted sms and whatsapp messages, retaining the data and justifying because he wanted space on his mobile phone. The garbage can in rue Max Roos has been reset, which made everything disappear. The images from Rue des Casernes and the telephone contacts between both reasonably establish that EL HADDAD ASUFI was Ibrahim EL BAKHRAOUI's driver. The President spent the majority of the time reading the reasoning of Paris Court of Assizes’ judgement that establishes EL HADDAD ASUFI’ guilt for terrorist association (but not for murder) in a firm and detailed manner (including weapons from the Netherlands and a weapon from Rue du Dries). Mr DE TAYE (EL HADDAD ASUFI’s lawyer) states that this sentence does not qualify him as radicalised. As for the cup on which EL HADDAD ASUFI's DNA was found in Rue Max Roos: there are no elements of the duration of his visits, there are also no video images, but he said that he went there for 10-15 minutes. However, several telephone elements situate him in the area of Rue Max Roos.
- Regarding Bilal EL MAKHOUKHI: it appeared that he sent a text message to Hervé BAYINGANA with his mother's mobile phone, the only time he used this, on Sunday 10/01/16 (he was wearing a bracelet, but cannot travel on Saturdays and Sundays). EL MAKHOUKHI sent this message to tell him that he was needed, this was on the day of the move from the Rue de l'Exposition in Jette to the Rue du Dries.
- On the PC Max Roos, a handwritten map was highlighted with information in French, including "dizaines de crèches" and "salle de sport", two street names that would be in Houthalen in Limburg.
Questions of the civil parties
Then the civil parties’ questions start:
- Mr MASSET for V-Europe thanked the investigators and examining magistrates for the quality of their work and asked two questions:
- The suicide bombers who did not blow themselves up were not excluded from the group, but were still somewhat discredited.
- There is a contradiction between the letter in which ABDESLAM asked for a better belt for the future and his defence in Paris where he voluntarily renounced. The judgment of the Paris Court of Assizes states that he tried to blew up his belt, but that it did not work.
- Mr LYS for V-Europe goes back over the chronology to determine the first preparations for the Brussels attacks: it dates back to 21/01/16, the date when the lease for the apartment in Rue Max Roos was signed. The lease would enter in effect from 01/02/16. The apartment was located on the top floor; this type of flat allowed smoke and smell to escape. The first purchases are done on 01/03/16 and the first cans are bought on 05/03/16 at Brico Pala.
- Mr LYS for V-Europe dismisses the defence presented by Mr COHEN for Bilal EL MAKHOUKI in relation to the "jus in bello" (law of war): the Zaventem suicide bombers did not want a confrontation with the militaries present at Zaventem because they did not have enough magazines and did not want to be spotted. Moreover, they had targeted the passages of specific flights (EU, Russia, Israel).
- The lawyer of a civil party confirmed that ATAR was charged in Belgium after his return from Syria-Iraq and that he was released without conditions.
- Mr. MOMA, lawyer for a civil party, invited for consideration of presentation slide 109 of the of the head of investigation about the kunya of Hervé BAYINGANA: Amin could refer to AYARI (who is African, but not black) or even ABDESLAM according to a television report (he is neither African nor black).
- ABRINI's walking time is 2h16 from Zaventem to the Boulevard Botanique where his track is lost. He said he arrived at BAYINGANA's in Rue de Tivoli at around 12:30-13:00, when he left around 8:00, which doesn’t add up (because it takes 30 minutes between Botanique and Rue du Tivoli). During this period, no telephone contact is recorded between ABRINI and BAYINGANA, nor KRAYEM. KRAYEM leaves Avenue des Casernes, passes through Schaerbeek (12.45 p.m.) and arrives in Rue du Tivoli probably in the afternoon.
Questions of the lawyers of the accused
Questions and answers asked by the lawyers of the 10 accused, of whom only three detainees as well as the two FARISI brothers were present at the hearing (the other four preferring to remain in their cells) it will be noted that:
- There were two moments of consultation between LAACHRAOUI and Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI, with ABRINI following a few metres behind, lagging behind to the point where LAACHRAOUI had to go and get him twice (once when he passed alley 11 and once when they came out of the Délifrance). The moment LAACHRAOUI tells ABRINI where he has to go, LAACHRAOUI will point to him and they will even go and show him, dropping the bags.
- ABRINI's lawyer suggests that in the reconstruction report, there are two designated moments where the other two suicide bombers tried to convince ABRINI to carry out the act.
- The mechanism (of the bomb) assumes that the perpetrator arms the bomb by connecting the 9V batteries to the electrical system that activates the push button. The potential risk with the remaining bomb (ABRINI's) is a shock to the push button. The IED (improvised explosive device) can be triggered by flame, shock or friction. The impact of a bullet could also trigger the IED. This was the scenario imagined for Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI, in a hearing of ABRINI.
- A vertically placed bag can cause more victims, but the presence of the used oval barrel negates this difference.
- The bag was found lying down (editor's note: this only proves that he did not dare to touch the bag, not to protect anyone. If he wanted to avoid an explosion, he would have taken the bag with him or placed it in a deserted place).
- It would have been extremely dangerous if the emergency services had moved the bag to use the cart to help the injured, because of the risk of explosion.
- The wiretaps in Bruges prison indicate that ABRINI must have taken shelter with acquaintances and that Forest Park seems to have been the place where he took refuge.
- ABRINI arrived without any luggage or belongings after his escape (editor's note: his escape was therefore not planned).
- How long did ABRINI stay at BAYINGANA’s house with KRAYEM in Rue Tivoli? From the 19th to the 21st? ABRINI said that he did not participate in the preparation of the bombs. BAYINGANA said that he dropped ABRINI off in Schaerbeek on the 20th or 21st. EL MAKHOUKI said that he came to Rue Max Roos on the 21st and did not see ABRINI.
- ABRINI did not leave the flat because he was wanted. LAACHRAOUI made a purchase on the 17th of March at Capitani's (when his picture was already known), but he wore a cap and glasses. A BOLO was issued for LAACHRAOUI on 15 December under the identity "Kayal Sofiane". LAACHRAOUI had no previous criminal record in Belgium and was therefore less known to the Belgian police authorities than ABRINI.
- Preparations for ABRINI's wedding in February are discussed. The landlord meets ABRINI and his fiancée for the lease agreement on 13 or 14 November 2015.
- Much is said about the will and the "yaya" document. ABRINI claimed that he made a copy and paste for the will. It is explained that usually those who write a will are those who are ready to die as a martyr. "If you want to die a martyr's death, in principle you make a will", KRAYEM said in his hearing, "I did not make a will because I knew I was not going to die. I believe that ABRINI intended to commit an attack by making his will, but that he changed his mind.”
- Islamologist FAHMI is not aware of anyone who left the group who could be prosecuted by the IS on European soil.
- KRAYEM has always been collaborative. He revealed the hideout in the Avenue des Casernes. Over time, he evolved in his statements (without always telling the truth). The investigating judge said "I heard it the first time, in terms of fate: we played, we lost, we are caught, we are identified, now I don't have to keep quiet".
- He refused to explain himself during the reassessment about his radicalisation.
- Through one of his lawyers, ABDESLAM returned at length on the return of Oussama ATAR from Iraq and the terms of his indictment, in particular the lack of police surveillance afterwards. The shadow of ATAR's involvement with State Security is mentioned, although this is not documented in the file (mentioned in a book by the deputy Dallemagne).
- Unlike his brother Brahim, and all the Paris and Brussels suicide bombers, Salah did not go to Syria.
- The judgment of the Paris Court of Assizes ruled that ABDESLAM did not desist, he wanted to activate his belt but it did not work. For the terrorist cell, he had to die on the night of 13 to 14 November.
- In Paris, at 22:31, Salah calls Mohamed AMRI and at 22:41 calls Hamza ATTOU. Both of them leave Belgium around 3 am to go and get him. Neither AMRI nor ATTOU were convicted as accomplices to the Paris killings, but rather for hiding a terrorist.
- The same night, he is dropped off at the hideout in Rue Henri BERGÉ in Schaerbeek (he knows the place because he brought LAACHRAOUI and BELKAÏD there). When he arrives at this hideout, ABRINI said that BELKAÏD is not very happy to see him arrive, he welcomes him but is not happy.
- He wrote three undated letters in Rue du Dries.
- They tried to contact Abid ABERKANE, Salah's cousin. He was under police observation and wiretapping. On 15 March at 16:54, two men went to a building, came out and returned later at 20:58. At 21:05 of the same night, Salah goes to his cousin and tells him "It's Amine". ABERKANE stated later: "Salah is a man of my family, I could not say no to him". Salah was arrested in his cousin’s cellar in rue des Quatre Vents (editor's note: why didn't he go directly to his cousin's house, unknown to the terrorist cell, if he aimed to escape from IS?). According to ABERKANE, Salah did not know either Rue Max Roos or Avenue des Casernes. The audio illustrates that they had no means to get in touch.
- The propaganda magazine DABIQ may contain (in)voluntary errors to serve the propaganda, thereby manipulating the facts. It is recalled that it highlights LAACHRAOUI, EL BAKRAOUI and ... BELKAID, who died in Rue du Dries.
- Khalid EL BAKRAOUI was detained from 12 November 2009 to 6 September 2013 (under electronic surveillance) and to 6 January 2014 (on parole). ATAR's last visit to prison was in May 2013.
- AYARI left for Syria on 6 December 2014. He was arrested in March 2016 after the Rue du Dries shooting.
- AYARI was not mentioned in the list of the Liwa as Sadiq (elite troop of the IS), as established by a police report from the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (French special intelligence service under the authority of the Ministry of Interior). The Paris Court of Assizes confirms this in its judgement.
- There is no will of AYARI.
- It does not appear from the file that AYARI knew rue Max Roos, rue des Casernes or rue du Tivoli. The only element that links AYARI to Rue Max Roos is the DNA on the zip and the text message "hamza?".
- The Syrian regime has killed 4 to 10 times more than the IS, according to Islamologist FAHMI. The regime's forensic photographer has published 45,000 photographs of people tortured in detention.
EL HADDAD ASUFI
- It is proven that EL HADDAD ASUFI frequented the Rue des Casernes but not the Rue Henri Bergé.
- EL HADDAD ASUFI did not have a kunya.
- In 2010, EL BAKRAOUI Ibrahim wanted to work at the airport but did not receive accreditation, LAACHRAOUI worked there as a cleaner in 2011.
- The production of TATP took place shortly before the attacks. EL HADDAD ASUFI's vehicle was searched on 24 March 2016 and the explosive dog detected nothing.
- Before 2014, it was not necessary to have false papers to go to Syria via Turkey, but it was more complicated afterwards.
- EL MAKHOUKHI's DNA was not found at the Avenue des Casernes, however, a distinction should be made between those who stayed there and those who passed through.
- He did not contest that his DNA was found on a cup and on a core. He denied that he visited Rue Max Roos.
- The information from the 'Taxi Vertes’, bank statements and Mobib cards do not reveal any trips to Rue Max Roos, with the exception of 4 possible trips to the neighbourhood.
- He was wearing an electronic bracelet from 11 May 2015 to 15 March 2016, with no technical possibility of locating him. On 15 and 16 March, he travelled with the STIB without validating a card. He was sometimes transported by BAYINGANA.
- He was sentenced and imprisoned for his departure to Syria.
- Approximately one hundred young people, mainly from Brussels, left for Syria between 2012 and 2013, including acquaintances of BAYINGANA (notably LAACHRAOUI and EL MAKHOUKHI). There was no legislative framework to retain an adult on departure, other than to call him a terrorist. These young people hid their plans from their parents.
- In the found notebook, the following statement "a brother who has already helped" (identified as Amine, who is defended by BAYINGANA) suggests that it was BAYINGANA who had already hosted KRAYEM and ABRINI.
- No one stayed with BAYINGANA on the night of 21-22 March 2016.
- BAYINGANA has no record of any criminal offence.
- The kunya Amine is quite widespread. Without consulting each other, ABRINI and KRAYEM both said in their hearing that Amine is Hervé BAYINGANA. However, in the first hearing and first interrogation, ABRINI speaks only of Hervé, and only started calling him Amine in the third hearing (Hervé, the black, the African).
- BAYINGANA said that in the Muslim culture, in which one must help each other, he had only done a favour. KRAYEM stated that BAYINGANA had no role in the terrorist cell (also confirmed by ABRINI) and only gave him shelter for 48 hours.
- The file in which ATAR was charged has not yet been settled: the investigation is still open more than 10 years later.
- The Islamologist FAHMI confirmed that the prison was a high place of radicalisation.
- BAYINGANA’s lawyer argued that his client has the right to the yard in Haren prison if he agrees to be in a three-person cell.
- The investigation involved several hundred investigating officers. The head of the MEGANQ investigation stated that "no one ever said that Smail FARISI was part of the terrorist plot", without agreeing to transcribe it into the report. This occurred on two occasions during a videotaped hearing of Smail FARISI in the presence of his lawyer Mr Courtoy. The investigator acknowledges having said this (it was broadcasted at the hearing), but does not remember having refused to accept the transcript.
- Smail FARISI has not shown any indication of seeking affiliation with the IS. "Abou fumier" is not a kunya previously encountered. No Koran, no prayer mat, no religious book, no post, no like on IS videos, no friend of his or family member who had gone to Syria, no trace of his DNA in the various other hideouts, no mosque attendance, no active or passive proselytism on his behalf in prison, no mention on his criminal record, no visit in prison to friends with the profile, or any other negative element.
- The investigation establishes that no IS flag had been displayed on Avenue des Casernes because Smail FARISI would not have accepted it.
- No smell of TATP or traces of it were found in Av. des Casernes where 48 people live in the building.
- KRAYEM brought two bags of Rue Max Roos to Av. des Casernes on 21 March, the first bag at 10.15pm and the second at 12.21am. Smail FARISI left Av. des Casernes on 21 March at 6.01 p.m. and did not return until 22 March after the attacks. This means that FARISI could not have seen the two bags. The unresolved question is whether KRAYEM waited until FARISI had left to bring the bags or whether this was just a coincidence.
- As the photos of the two EL BAKRAOUI brothers were not widely disseminated in the press (only the newspaper La Dernière Heure published it), he may have believed the false information explained to him by the two brothers.
- FARISI reprimanded his girlfriend because after the death of her own mother, she wanted to wear the veil.
- He is bi-sexual, even though homosexuality is fiercely forbidden by the IS.
- He has waived the return of the €1,000 deposit on the flat of the Av. des Casernes.
- France did not request FARISI’s extradition, as explained in the Paris judgment on p. 57: he was acquitted of harbouring a criminal (p. 285). On a subsidiary basis, he was judged for participating in the activities of a terrorist group. in the Paris Bis trial held in Brussels (12 pages in the judgement) for having lodged Ibrahim EL BAKRAOUI during the pre-Paris period. FARISI’s arrival at the flat on 18 November 2015 upsets BAKKALI and Khalid EL BAKRAOUI.
- On p. 282-283 of the same judgment is stated that it has not been established that Smail FARISI knew that the two EL BAKRAOUI brothers were preparing the Paris attacks between October and November 2015.
- FARISI is assessed as being mentally disabled and naive. He did not see that EL BAKRAOUI was radicalised, neither did the 3 judges of the Prison Court who released EL BAKRAOUI on parole. Hiding the radicalisation is a known technique, as well as the changes in presentation and clothing. KRAYEM said the instruction was "hate them but don't show it".
- On several occasions, Smail FARISI asked his neighbour in the building for tools to open his door, because he had forgotten his keys.
- Arrested on 9 April 2016, Smail FARISI was released on conditions by the investigating judge on 1 February 2018. These conditions were not renewed after 3 October 2018, in the legal absence of absolute necessity for public safety.
- Served 8 months in pre-trial detention.
- FARISI insisted on wearing a glove on his left hand during the move from Av. des Casernes in the presence of a taxi driver friend, to hold a bloody handkerchief on a cut. Close-ups (bad) are shown.
- He had fallen into alcohol, violence, fights and other misdeeds since his release, while his brother Smaïl found a job after his release from prison and stabilised.
The next week
The week of 20 to 25 February is a week of rest.
The trial will resume on 27 February with comments from all parties: these are not pleadings but brief comments on the evidence given so far by the investigators and the investigating judges. These comments are made in the absence of the parties.
This will be followed by the hearing of additional witnesses, including members of State Security.
Upon questioning by Mr. MASSET, the President stated that she understood the unease of the civil parties of the MAELBEEK attack regarding the planning of their testimony. She wanted to inform us of this schedule as soon as possible.
The President suspended the hearing at 8.30 pm until 27 February.
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
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