A court in Brussels yesterday agreed that ten suspects should be sent before a jury to stand trial for the attacks at Brussels Airport and the city metro on 22 March 2016.
The decision was already approved by the council chamber in January, but for a jury trial, that decision has to be ratified by the chamber for indictments. The procedure is required because a jury trial is enormously complex, lengthy and expensive.
For example, in this case, the indictment alone speaks of 32 murders and 687 murder attempts, all of which carry the additional charge of being motivated by terrorism.
There are ten defendants, but also the relatives of murder victims, and the almost 700 injured, who will be listed as civil parties, as will Brussels Airport itself.
The main defendants are Salah Abdeslam, currently on trial in Paris for his part in the attacks there in November 2015, and Mohamed Abrini, who became known as ‘the man with the hat’ when he was seen to leave the airport shortly before the explosions in the departures hall and walk away in the direction of Brussels. His suitcase exploded later, but he was gone by that time.
Osama Krayem was another no-show. He was supposed to take part in the suicide bombing in Maalbeek metro station, but apparently thought better of it and left his confederate, Khalid El Bakraoui (whose brother Ibrahim had blown himself up at the airport an hour earlier) to carry out the attack alone.
Fourteen people died in the metro attack. Had Krayem not pulled out, the death toll might well have been higher, but he can expect no clemency for that fact.
The trial is expected to start in September 2022, more than six years after the events concerned, but not an excessive time by jury trial standards.
It will take place in the former Nato headquarters in Haren – coincidentally almost exactly halfway between the two bombing targets – which has been transformed into a massive trial complex, with facilities to accommodate the hundreds of civil parties and provide them with video links to the proceedings.