Welcome to the third edition of V-Europe’s newsletter about the trial on the 22 March terrorist attacks, which will also mark the end of the year for this trial. There will be no end-of-year session next week, meaning that the trial will resume on Tuesday 3 January 2023.
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The past week
The week started on Monday 19 December with the announcement of the defendants' summary judgment about their transfer conditions against the Belgian State. The President then continued by giving more information around the list of witnesses and the testimonies themselves. Witnesses will have to come to court alone, with only the possibility to be accompanied by the facility dog during the trial. Witnesses can come with a written text, but this will be included in the case file. The President further also recalled the oral nature of the proceedings. Furthermore, the public prosecutor of the federal prosecution read out the verdict of the Paris Court of Assizes regarding the November 13 attacks, as both attacks are interlinked. This was followed by the lawyers reading their pleadings, after which the hearing was closed around noon. About 15 civil parties were present that day. Abdeslam, Abrini, Krayem and Asufi were absent.
On Tuesday 20 December, The Presiding Judge announced the changes in the schedule following the legal action taken by the defendants against the Belgian State. Since some of the defendants decided not to speak until the issue is resolved, the President decided to postpone the questioning of the defendants and started questioning the investigators. The exact schedule changes can be found on the calendar page. Nicolas Estienne and Guillaume Lys, lawyers from V-Europe, then took the floor to draw the jury and the Presiding Judge's attention to the logistical and psychological difficulties that these changes in the timetable pose for the civil parties. The aim was to refocus the trial on the victims of the attacks, to whom little attention had previously been paid in the trial. Their intervention brought great emotion in the courtroom, but also among themselves.
The Presiding Judge then proceeded with the civil action, with and without lawyers. The hearing closed around noon. About 10 civil parties were present that day. Abdeslam was absent.
The interrogation of the investigators began on Wednesday December 21, after the oath was taken. The three investigating judges in charge of the investigation presented their methodology, as well as their rights and duties that differ from those of the federal prosecutor's office. These investigating judges are indeed neutral and investigate both in favour and against the acts for which they were appointed. The investigating judges then called the first witness, Mr DEVOS, who was commissioner of the Zaventem airport police. He described his actions and those of his men on 22 March 2016. This was followed by the testimonial of Captain PORIAU. He was in charge of the military squad stationed at the airport at the time of the attacks, and he too described his actions and those of the soldiers under his command during the 22 March attacks in Zaventem. It was clear that he acted differently from the police at the time of the attacks because soldiers are not trained to intervene in a civilian environment. Major KEYMOLEN then came to explain the actions of the firefighters on 22 March in Zaventem, and it was very clear that the attacks had strongly marked this man. He stressed the complexity of the intervention in Zaventem, especially as firefighters normally don't operate in an environment where they could be in danger, for example due to the presence of a third bomb. Major PINOLI then took the floor to explain the demining operations of 22 March. He explained in a very educational way how a bomb works, so that everyone could understand the nature of the weapon used to carry out these attacks. The session closed around 6pm with 25 civil parties present. Abdeslam, Krayem and Abrini were absent from the hearing.
On Thursday 22 December, DR6, the judicial police, came to Zaventem airport to present its findings. It was an emotional day, especially as the judicial police showed images of the victims of the attacks. Then the DVI, the Distaster Victim Identification, came to present the methods used to identify the victims of the attack. The hearing was adjourned at about 3.30 pm and about 15 civil parties were present. Abdeslam and Krayem were absent, and Abrini was absent in the morning but did appear in the afternoon.
No member of the jury left throughout the entire week. The trial schedule has been completely changed due to the defendants' legal action and the latest version of the schedule is available on the calendar page of our website.
A word from Mr Guillaume Lys, lawyer for V-Europe
Here is a message from Mr Guillaume Lys, lawyer for V-Europe and many civil parties in this trial:
"It was time to bring the victims back to the centre of the debate. It was time to talk again about the facts, about what had happened since 22 March and about those who have been touched in their hearts and minds since that day. We have heard too many complaints from the accused about their conditions of transfer. These complaints, as time goes by, look more and more like mere excuses to avoid talking about the fundamentals of the case. About what incriminates them. The Presiding Judge reminded us that the debate on conditions of transfer is not the debate of the assize court. The court is there to convict those responsible for what happened. The intervention on Tuesday 20 December by Ms Estienne, a member of our lawyers' collective, was salutary in this regard. And since Thursday, we have finally got to the heart of the case. Zaventem. The investigators. Harsh images. Testimonies that are difficult to listen to. But necessary to understand and assess what happened. After a difficult start, to say the least, the process is finally on track. May the holiday week allow everyone to recharge with their loved ones before the hearings resume in January. We will be speaking about Maelbeek. And we will be there from the beginning."
The upcoming week
No hearings are scheduled in the last week of the year and Monday 2 January 2023 is a public holiday. Hence, the hearings will resume on Tuesday 3 January 2023 and will last until Friday of the same week.
On Tuesday 3 January 2023, witnesses will present their findings in Maelbeek, similar to what has been done this week for the airport. These testimonies will conclude on Wednesday, 4 January 2023, before moving on to the next phase of the investigation with the presentation of the first investigation documents, focusing first on Zaventem.
The detailed timetable on the website provides the latest schedule updates.
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!
Do you have any advice or remarks to improve the newsletter? Do not hesitate to send an e-mail to Florian Jehin: email@example.com.