The Brussels Court of Appeal will rule today in a terrorist case implicating eight individuals, including an imam. In the first instance, there were some thirty people accused of terrorist offences in this case. These included Najim Laachraoui, one of the suicide bombers at Brussels Airport in March 2016. In April, the Public Prosecutor requested increased sentences for the accused men. She requested a sentence of 15 years in prison for Othman Akzinnay, who she considered to be “the ringleader of this network”. This contrasted with the six-year sentence handed down to him at first instance. The Public Prosecutor requested the same sentence for Ishak Ghennai, who received seven years in prison when tried at first instance.
She then requested sentences of 12 years against Mohamed Akzinnay, the brother of Othman Akzinnay, sentenced to 30 months in prison by the court, and for the imam Mohamed Benajiba, acquitted by the judge at first instance. She also requested a 12-year sentence for Majid Afkir, who received a partially suspended five-year prison sentence at first instance.
The Public Prosecutor also requested confirmation of the seven-year prison sentence handed down by the judge at first instance for Khaled Khattab, who failed to appear on appeal. The latter fled to Syria after judgement was passed and was arrested in Turkey, where he is presently being detained. Lastly, the Public Prosecutor requested two-year prison sentences for the final two men accused, who had been acquitted at first instance.
In this case, a total of eight individuals were prosecuted for having been leaders or members of a network of jihadist fighters sent to Syria, between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2014. Some of them had gone to Syria where they had stayed in a villa near Aleppo. This was being used to gather together numerous jihadist candidates coming from Belgium.
The network was built around Othman Akzinnay, his brother and also Khalid Zerkani, the most important recruiter of jihadist candidates in Belgium. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2016. The network had been broken up at the end of February 2014.
In this case, at first instance, some thirty people were accused. These included Najim Laachraoui, one of the suicide bombers in the attack at Brussels Airport on March 22nd, 2016, who failed to appear at trial. In total, twenty-six of these individuals had been sentenced.
The Brussels Times