Court president says 'sentences are message of hope' for victims of Brussels terrorist attack
The judge presiding over the trial relating to the 22 March 2016 terrorist attacks addressed the accused and the jury for the last time on Friday, more than nine months after the jury was selected on 30 November last year. She said she wanted the sentences to send a message of hope to the jury and the court.
"We live in a multicultural society based on values that apply to everyone," Laurence Massart said after the sentences were delivered. "The sentences imposed by the court and the jury, which were unanimous, take into account the fear that was caused and the personalities of each of you." She said the jury and the court also wanted to send a message of hope "for you, for the victims, for society and for all of us".
Nina Van Eeckhaut, lawyer for the widow of one of the victims of the Brussels airport attack, said the fact that most of the accused would not be released was "reassuring and comforting" for the victims. "I think my client will be comforted by the severe sentences handed down," she said.
Philippe Vansteenkiste, president of the victims' association V-Europe, said he had "mixed feelings" about the sentences. "It will take time to process everything. But I think it is nice that we have shown that we can listen to arguments that can be disturbing without falling into extremism." Vansteenkiste, who lost his sister in the attacks, added: "The judicial chapter is closed, but there is still a lot to do. The scar remains."
Salah Abdeslam, one of the defendants, said he was "very relieved" and "very emotional" after the decision not to impose an additional sentence. Although Abdeslam did not receive an additional sentence, his lawyer, Delphine Paci, believes he should have been acquitted. She did not rule out an appeal to the Court of Cassation.
The parties have 14 days to file an appeal. In this case, the court would have to examine whether the trial was conducted correctly and in accordance with the law. A hearing on the civil interests will also be held on 20 September in Brussels.
© PHOTO JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP