Terrorist trial over Brussels attacks delayed
The assize trial on the 22 March 2016 attacks on Brussels Airport and the metro in the centre of the Belgian capital has been delayed. On Thursday the Federal Public Service Justice notified the president of the assize court by letter that the new case for the defendants will not be ready before 10 October, the day when the jury is composed. Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) confirmed the delay on Radio 1 on Friday, although he said it will be weeks rather than months.
In the dossier on the terror attacks of 22 March 2016, nine people have to answer to the Brussels assize court, for which individual glass boxes were built that were completely sealed off. From behind the large glass windows, the accused could only talk to their lawyers, who have to sit in front of them, through a strip of drilled holes. There was also a small pass-through hatch through which papers could be passed.
Violation of rights
At the preliminary hearing of 12 September, the defence had pointed out that these boxes violated the rights of the defence, and in a judgment of 16 September, the assize court vindicated the defence and ruled that the boxes should be demolished and replaced. That was to be done before the 10 October hearing, when the jury is to be assembled. But that deadline now seems unrealistic, the Federal Public Service Justice reported on Thursday in a letter to the president of the assize court. On Friday Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) confirmed the delay, which could amount to several weeks.
Asked whether this decision could not have been taken earlier and thus delay could have been avoided, minister Van Quickenborne replied that it is only at the preparatory hearing that all parties are heard, after which the president can make a decision. "It is only at the preparatory hearing that the circumstances under which the trial is conducted are determined. It is the president who has the final say. And she has said that (those boxes) are not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights," the minister said.
Van Quickenborne pointed out that the exact length of the postponement is subject to consultation between the assize president and the Federal Public Service Justice president.
"Everyone has his role in this, but the minister of Justice is not a party in this process. If I were to make statements on that, I could jeopardise the process."
"But I assume that the delay will be limited. It will not be a matter of months, rather a matter of weeks," Van Quickenborne concluded.
Besides the nine defendants, the Brussels assize court will hear at least 372 witnesses during the trial on the 22 March 2016 attacks in Zaventem and Brussels. These include victims and their relatives and people who were involved in providing assistance, as well as investigating magistrates, police detectives, experts, witnesses, people from the intelligence services and moral witnesses.
© BELGA PHOTO POOL ERIC LALMAND - Illustration picture shows the courtroom pictured during a judgment on the list of witnesses for the trial of the attacks of March 22, 2016, before the Brussels-Capital Assizes Court, Thursday 22 September 2022, at the Justitia site in Haren, Brussels. On March 22 2016, 32 people were killed and 324 got injured in suicide bombings at Zaventem national airport and Maalbeek/ Maelbeek metro station, which were claimed by IS (ISIL-ISIS).