Illias’ uncle appeared at the Criminal Court in Antwerp on what was the first day of his trial on Monday. The prosecution said that the accused abused the fact that Ilias doesn’t feel good about himself and let the boy write a farewell letter. A 4-year sentence, half of which to be suspended, was requested by the Antwerp Judicial Authorities. The prosecution also wants the man to be obliged to seek help from a psychologist, not because he has a character disorder, but because “he has a strange way of reasoning”.
Illias’ disappearance was headline news last September. Many friends, neighbours and parents of pupils at the boy’s school joined the search for the 12-year-old. On the morning of Thursday 17 September Ilias left his home in Mortsel, just south of Antwerp to cycle the few kilometres to his school in nearby Edegem. However, he never arrived and soon a search was mounted to find the schoolboy. Three days later on Sunday 20 September he was found with his uncle in the village of Steenkerque in Hainaut. This is around 90 kilometres from his home.
The boy was in good health when he was found. His uncle said that the plan was for he and Ilias to go camping in a nature reserve on the border between Belgium and France. The uncle was detained on suspicion of abduction. He has been held on remand since, his request for an electronic tag having been declined.
The prosecution says that it is clear that the accused was well prepared for the trip to “a utopian stressless society” and that he didn’t wish for he and Ilias to be found. The uncle had, amongst other items, two bicycle trailers, more than 500 euro in cash, 2 gold bars, an axe and a bow and arrow with him when they were found.
His solicitor Ergun Top says that his client had only intended to stay away for two weeks. "He wanted to see what it is like to survive at one with nature. Ilias wanted to go with his uncle and he couldn’t refuse. My client is autistic and is now receiving treatment. According to an expert he is only half in his right mind”.
Meanwhile, Ilias’ parents have withdrawn as civil party plaintiffs in the case. Their solicitor Zohra Othman told VRT News that “They were given access to the case file and have found answers to the questions they had about how it could have happened. In the meantime, they have been able to work on restoring relations within the family. This process is still ongoing”.