2016 Brussels attacks trial: Belgian police and army testify about early investigation
During Monday's hearing at the assize trial for the 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgian federal judicial police officers took the stand and talked about their investigation of the attack in the Maelbeek metro station. A DOVO employee, the Belgian army's demining service, also testified about the bomb site and the explosive charge. Their testimonies were accompanied by explicit imagery of the victims.
The session started with a discussion about nude frisks. The suspects indicated - at the suggestion of their lawyers - that they had undergone another naked search in which they had to bend their knees. Virginie Taelman, the lawyer for the accused Bilal El Makhoukhi, then announced that she would send a bailiff to the prison on Tuesday.
"I had mixed feelings about the investigation," explained Maarten V. of DOVO afterwards. "We have to meticulously and efficiently investigate the site of the explosion. But the longer we stay, the longer the bodies of the victims remain on the scene and cannot be examined. The more time we "lose", the longer families of the victims have to wait for news."
The explosive charge used in the Maelbeek attack was four times smaller than the one of the Zaventem attack, explained the DOVO employee. However, it still claimed the same number of victims, because the room in Maelbeek was much smaller than the departure hall in Zaventem. DOVO was also able to quickly identify the perpetrator. After a suicide attack with a backpack, usually only the extremities (head, feet and hands) of the perpetrator's body are found. This was also the case here, said Maarten V.
Afterwards, Belgian federal judicial police officers testified about their emotions during the initial investigation. At a certain point, mobile phones started ringing. "At first it was quiet because the network was saturated. But suddenly messages started appearing," Nathalie B. said. Messages like "Ça va?" or "Where are you?". Nathalie B. testified that she turned over one cell phone and put another on silent. To do the job as well as possible, it was important not to let emotions play a role, she said.
© BELGA PHOTO JANNE VAN WOENSEL KOOY