It is no ordinary process that begins this Monday (9:00 a.m.) in the Belgian capital, Brussels. In the coming months, a jury will hear about the bloody terrorist attacks that tore a deep wound into the soul of the small country six and a half years ago. On March 22, 2016, three suicide bombers from the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) killed 32 people at the capital's airport and in a metro station in the busy EU quarter, and hundreds were injured, some seriously.
Ten men have now been charged with the crime, one of whom is believed to have died in Syria. Eight defendants are charged with 32 counts of terrorist murder, attempted terrorist murder of 695 people and involvement in the activities of a terrorist organization. The public prosecutor's office charges the ninth only with the third point.
You face more than 900 joint plaintiffs. Public interest in the process is huge - which is why the process is being conducted in the converted premises of the former NATO headquarters in the north-east of the city. The process is scheduled for six to nine months. Over the past few years, victims and victim organizations have repeatedly complained about insufficient and complicated support from the state.
Attacks on the airport and subway
On November 13, 2015, extremists killed 130 people and injured 350 others in a series of attacks in Paris. In the meantime, prison sentences, some of which are high, against 20 of the accused have become final. Because the crimes in Brussels and Paris were engineered by the same terrorist cell, six of those convicted in Paris will also be on trial in Brussels.
One of them is Salah Abdeslam, who was sentenced to life imprisonment as the main defendant in the Paris terror trials. In April 2018, a Belgian court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for shooting at police officers in Brussels shortly before his arrest on March 15, 2016.
preliminary hearing begins
The Brussels process begins on Monday with a so-called preliminary hearing. Above all, the list of witnesses and their order are determined. The twelve jurors are to be selected on October 10 before the indictment is read out at the start of the hearing on October 13.
The defendants themselves will probably spend the trial in glass boxes with a small slit through which they can exchange information with their lawyers. One of the defense lawyers even threatened not to take part in the trial if the boxes were held on, as this would violate the presumption of innocence.