Belgians in Syria – terrorist suspects on trial call for acquittal
Friday, 16 October 2015
The counsels for Mohamed Aquichouh and Zouheir B. requested their respective clients’ acquittals on Thursday in the Brussels Criminal Court during the criminal trial of the four young men from Vilvorde and Machelen accused of terrorism. Zouheir B. has never set foot in Syria and according to his lawyer has also never been involved in any terrorist activity. Mohamed Aquichouh only went to Syria out of curiosity and never at any point held against his will and tortured Jejoen Bontinck, according to his defence team. Sadik Cherabi’s defence team also demanded his acquittal on Wednesday.
Mohamed Aquichouh was only aged 19 when he left for Syria. “In the weeks leading up to his departure, several acquaintances from Vilvorde, who had already stayed in Syria, explained to him that it was paradise on earth. He therefore went out of curiosity and as he was unemployed in Vilvorde. Once there, he quickly realised that the reality was less rosy than had been described to him,” argued his barrister Maître Sébastien Courtoy.
The young man stayed in the country for twenty days and at no point tortured Jejoen Bontinck, his lawyer stated. “Apart from Bontinck’s own statements, there was never any proof that he had been tortured and his statement is so long as to be both inconceivable and unreliable.”
Maître Anne-Aurélie De Vos, Zouheir B.’s barrister, considers that there is absolutely no proof against her client. “He has never been to Syria and has never intentionally done anything to aid or abet the commission of a terrorist offence or assisted a terrorist. The only thing he could be charged with is forgery. Community service seems a more appropriate sentence to me.
On Friday, prison sentences from three to fifteen years were requested for Mohamed Aquichouh, Zouheir B., Sadik Cherabi et Annas Koundi. Annas Koundi is thought to still be in Syria.