Rachid Benomari, the main suspect in the trial of the Somali terrorist branch, took the stand in front of the court of appeal in Brussels on Friday. 6 people are accused of taking part in terrorist activities with the Al-Shahab militia group in Somalia in2011 and 2012. In the first trial of this case, 19 people were sentenced. Rachid Benomari said he had indeed fought in Somalia alongside the Al-Shahab militia group in Somalia but that he had never acted as part of a terrorist group, either as a participant or leader. I fought to defend the rights of Islamists,” he said. To be precise, he refutes the accusation that Al-Shahab militias are terrorists. According to him, they are an armed group like any other, fighting other armed groups in a civil war.
Last October, the criminal court in Brussels sentenced Rachid Benomari to 18 years in prison on the charge of taking part in the activities of a terrorist group in a leading role.
The 42-year-old left Molenbeek-Saint-Jean in April 2011 with 2 other men, also charged. They joined Al-Shahab camps in Somalia by crossing the Kenya-Somalia border illegally.
They were arrested in Kenya in 2013 when they were attempting to get back to Europe, and were then extradited to Belgium in April 2014.
Lars Andersen (Source: Belga)