Ten suspects will face the trial of the 2016 Brussels bombings, Belgium’s worst atrocity in peacetime that resulted in 32 deaths, according to a court source. The suspects include a Frenchman who was accused of the deadly attacks in Paris in 2015.
Salah Abdeslam, a 31-year-old alleged French jihadist accused of last year’s Paris gun and bomb attacks, is among those charged.
The ten accused will be tried before a jury in the second half of 2022, after the separate French trial has ended.
In March 2016, suicide bombers targeted crowds at Brussels Airport and a metro station in the city center near EU headquarters.
The attack has been linked to the same group cell for cross-border Islamic State (IS) that carried out the attacks in November 2015 in Paris.
The previous attack in the French capital saw bombers and gunmen target cafes, a public area outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis and a popular music venue killing 130 people.
Abdeslam is reportedly the only survivor of the team that carried out the attack and he is suspected of having played a key role in the organization of the Brussels attacks.
The trial will be a major undertaking. The former NATO Headquarters on the outskirts of Brussels has been renovated to become a High Security Court.
‘Man in hat’
Federal anti-terrorism prosecutors had asked eight of the 13 suspects to stand trial, but a panel of judges sitting in closed session sent 10 to trial.
Three suspects were cleared due to insufficient evidence, said prosecutor Eric Van Duyse.
Abdeslam faces a life sentence. He is currently imprisoned in France pending trial there.
He was captured in Brussels on March 18, 2016, and his arrest may have prompted other members of the IS group cell to hasten attack plans that are already in motion.
Four days later, suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Brussels airport and metro during the morning rush hour.
About 900 people are among those affected by physical or mental trauma in the Brussels attacks, which were claimed by IS.
Abdeslam has already been tried once in Belgium. The Frenchman, who grew up in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, was sentenced in 2018 to 20 years for shooting at the Brussels police before he was arrested in 2016.
Another alleged member of the network, Oussama Atar, is believed to have died in Syria since the Paris and Brussels attacks and could be assessed in absentia.
Mohamed Abrini, 36, known as “the man in the hat” after his appearance on security camera footage taken just before Brussels’ airport bombing, is another of the suspects to be prosecuted.
Two suicide bombers were killed in the blast at the airport, but Abrini was seen leaving the area.
Another defendant, Osama Krayem, 28, is accused of following the bomber to the subway.
( Jowharwith AFP and AP)