Preparations are underway for the biggest trial in Belgium's history, which starts properly on Monday as the ten accused of the 2016 terror attack will be brought before the court. Proceedings had been supposed to begin in October but were delayed over issues with the glass box the suspects will be held in.
As the country's judicial machine kicks into a gear never before seen, the scale of the procedure has sparked interest not only in this trial but the legal system more broadly. Today, almost a kilometre of cars queued to pass security checks as the 1,000 Belgian citizens present themselves to the preliminary hearing for jury service.
Of those shortlisted only 36 (24 permanent and 12 substitutes) will eventually be selected, their names drawn from an urn. The trial is expected to last six months, during which jobs and travel plans must be put on hold. Many have already requested an exemption though judges will only grant these in exceptional cases – such as pregnant women, those with a chronic illness, or anyone with a direct link to the traumatic events.
Yet the process will be an arduous affair, taxing not only for its length but also the emotional strain it will place on participants. The attacks at Brussels Airport and Maelbeek metro station killed 32 and injured some 340 civilians. Images of the aftermath will be presented and jurors must wait until the case has been presented fully before delivering their verdict.
Of the ten defendants on trial, several have already been found guilty of the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Yet whereas the Paris trial featured a professional jury, Belgium's will be selected from civilians from all walks of life. In recognition of the high demand that will be placed on the jurors as well as others involved in the trial (magistrates, security personnel etc.) an allowance for psychological support will be granted.
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