Belga

Stringent security for start of Jewish museum attack trial

The Brussels court of assizes held a first preparatory session to pave the way for the trial of the chief suspect held responsible for the murderous attack on the Jewish Museum of Brussels four years ago.

The trial centres on the first attack on Belgian soil by a returning Syria fighter.  An Israeli couple visiting Belgium as tourists and a volunteer at the Jewish Museum were shot dead during an attack on 24 May 2014, while a museum worker died of her injuries two weeks later.  A week after the attack the French chief suspect Mehdi Nemmouche was arrested in Marseilles. He was carrying weapons, ammunition and an IS flag.

It was amid stringent security that the two defendants Mehdi Nemmouche and his alleged accomplice Nacer Bendrer were taken from their prison cell to the Palace of Justice.  The suspected gunman Mehdi Nemmouche was brought into court by heavily armed guards.  He denies all involvement. Security in and around the courthouse mirrored that enjoyed by terrorist suspects Salah Abdeslam and Sofien Ayari a couple of months ago.

Today's session served to identify the defendants and decide which witnesses will be called.  Federal prosecutors are eager to hear emergency services workers, detectives and experts, while the defence would like to hear from another series of experts.  The Israeli ambassador to Belgium is also seen as a potential witness.

The jury will be constituted in January.

Defence lawyers also requested a two week delay to the start of the trial proper arguing that the prosecution received five months to examine results of tests, while they only got five days.