Soufiane A., 22, has declared before Brussels criminal court that Khalid Z., the main defendant, did not brainwash him to go to Syria. Thirty-two people are being tried in the terrorism case regarding the recruitment and military training of candidates for the armed jihad in Syria. “I previously said that Khalid Z. had indoctrinated me, but it is not true. I was under pressure from the investigators,” declared Soufiane A, one of the defendants. “I decided to go to Syria because I wasn’t doing well either at school or professionally,” he added.
Soufiane A. left Brussels for Syria on October 19th, 2014 and returned to Belgium on November 16th, 2014, when he was 19. “Yes, I went there to fight,” he said. “When I got there, observed what was going on, how people were living. My two older brothers, 34 and 31, also came out to join me,” he said. Thirty-two people are currently on trial for having participated in, or led, the recruitment and dispatch of fighters to Syria, and therefore for participation in a terrorist organisation, either as member or leader. Some of them are also being prosecuted for traveling to Syria to fight alongside the jihadists. Certain defendants failed to show up to court, choosing to stay in Syria or having been killed in the fight.
The main suspect is Khalid Z., a 41-year-old man from Molenbeek. Investigators believe him to be the main recruiter of jihadist fighters. He circulated political propaganda at sports clubs and invited people to makeshift prayer houses in cellars. He is believed to have targeted young Belgian Muslims in particular.