'If no one speaks, there can be no trial': Terror suspects leave courtroom

'If no one speaks, there can be no trial': Terror suspects leave courtroom
Credit: Belga

The third day of the 2016 Brussels terror attack trial was marred in controversy on Wednesday as five suspects left the courtroom to protest the conditions of their transfer. The Ministry of Justice has already dismissed the plea to relax these conditions.

Five of the ten defendants – Salah Abdeslam, Sofien Ayari, Osama Krayem, Ali El Haddad Asufi and Mohamed Abrini – refused to stand as they are tried for the March 2016 bombings that claimed 32 lives at the Maelbeek metro station and Brussels Airport in Zaventem.

They disrupted proceedings at the Justitia site in Haren where the trial is being held, leaving the courtroom to protest the conditions of their transfer from the prison to the courtroom each day. They argued that they are "humiliated every morning" after being blindfolded, handcuffed and subject to full body searches.

Mohamed Abrini, who fled Brussels Airport leaving behind his luggage filled with explosives, stated that cameras had been placed in their toilets. His lawyer Stanislas Eskenazi said that the defendants' frustrations had been building for the last couple of weeks and insisted that their demands for "a fair trial" are reasonable.

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To that end, the defence had filed a request to Laurence Massart, the president of the Court, to relax their clients' conditions. This was denied by the Ministry of Justice.

The Life4Brussels association that represents victims of the attacks has asked the Ministry of Justice to do all it can to "remedy the situation," as it was "inconceivable that the defendants do not do not take part in the trial."


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