The trial of the survivors among the accused terrorists involved in the attacks of 22 March 2016 will begin in October next year, the Brussels court of appeal has announced.
On that day, attacks took place at Brussels Airport, and shortly after at Maelbeek station on the Brussels metro – the two attacks allegedly coordinated by the same cell of Islamist terrorists. In total, 32 people lost their lives.
Two of the terrorists also died in the attacks.
This year in September a court committed ten suspects for trial: Salah Abdeslam, Oussama Atar, Mohamed Abrini, Sofien Ayari, Osama Krayem, Ali El Haddad Asufi, Bilal El Makhoukhi, Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa, the two Smail brothers and Ibrahim Farisi.
Some were accused of murder and attempted murder of the victims of the attacks; others of taking part in the plot to carry out the attacks.
At present, the number of civil parties to the case – victims of the attacks, an association of victims, families of the deceased – number 960 in all. The trial is planned to take place at the former NATO headquarters in Evere in the north of Brussels, which is being fitted to accommodate the hundreds of press and others expected to attend.
NATO, in the meantime, has moved to entirely new headquarters – a move that was planned years before the attacks took place, but which presented the authorities with the perfect opportunity to organise a trial with multiple defendants and even more civil parties and witnesses.
The trial is likely to exceed by far the largest trial to take place in Brussels since the aftermath of the Heysel disaster of May 1985, which resulted in 26 Liverpool fans being charged with manslaughter and tried in the Brussels Justice Palace starting in October 1988.
The charges they will face include taking part in the activities of a terrorist group – the basic charges on which the others largely depend – and murder and attempted murder in a terrorist context – a charge that aggravates the charge of (attempted) murder and allows the court to increase the sentence on conviction – although the maximum sentence for murder already stands at life imprisonment.
The final death toll of the Brussels attacks now stands at 32, as well as three of the terrorists themselves, while 340 people were injured.