'I was never a terrorist': Smail Farisi speaks for the first time during Brussels attacks trial

"I was never a terrorist. I am bisexual, so it is impossible." On Thursday morning, defendant Smail Farisi spoke for the first time since the start of the 2016 Brussels terror attacks trial. In an emotional and perplexing address, he expressed how the trial was weighing on his mental and physical health.

Since early December 2022, ten suspects are standing trial in Belgium for their roles in the 2016 Brussels terror attacks, which saw 32 people killed and around 340 injured. The trial, expected to last up to nine months, is the biggest in Belgium’s judicial history. Smail Farisi, the elder of the two Farisi brothers on trial, took the floor for the first time Thursday morning. 

"I'm not well," Smail Farisi said after asking the presiding judge Laurence Massart to speak. "I've been suffering from agoraphobia for a year and a half. My health is shaky, really shaky," said Farisi. "I have to drink two beers in the morning to be able to get here." Smail Farisi stated he wants to clear up any misunderstandings about himself, but feels it is taking too long before he can tell his story in front of the jury. 

Smail Farisi is suspected of lending a Brussels flat to Khalid El Bakraoui, who carried out a suicide bombing at the Maelbeek metro station in 2016. El Bakraoui and defendant Ossama Krayem used the flat as a safe house in the lead-up to the Brussels attacks. Smail and his brother Ibrahim allegedly emptied and cleaned the safe house after the attacks.

On Thursday, Smail explained how he felt caught between his desire to prove that he is not a terrorist and his fears of leaving his safe environment. "I am caught between the devil and the deep blue sea," Farisi argued. "The misunderstandings will be lifted, one way or another. I was never a terrorist. I am bisexual, so it is impossible," Farisi continued his muddled address. 

The presiding judge tried to clarify that Smail's presence at the trial is mandatory. "You have no choice, the trial will continue," Massart said. "I have never been a terrorist, never in my life. I never wanted to kill anyone," Farisi stressed. "I'm going to leave now, ma'am. I don't want this anymore."

Both brothers left the courtroom Thursday morning but reappeared after the lunch break. Smail and Ibrahim Farisi are the only two defendants not seated in the high-security glass suspect box during the trial, as they are not currently being detained. 



Defendant Smail Farisi and his lawyer Michel Degrève on the first day of the 2016 Brussels attack trial, Monday 05 December 2022 © BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

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