Eight Islamic State (IS) supporters from Brussels have been stripped of their Belgian nationality, in the latest move by a Belgian court to keep foreign terrorist fighters from returning to the country.
The decision to strip the eight fighters of their nationality was taken in absentia by the Brussels Court of Appeal, which also sentenced them to at least five years imprisonment.
The whereabouts of the eight men is unknown and they no longer have any known addresses abroad or in Belgium, which they are thought to have left to go join the ranks of the IS in Syria and Iraq.
The eight convicts, all from Brussels, now have eight days to appeal the decision before it becomes final, Le Soir reports.
Seven of them had already been tried and sentenced in absentia in the 2015 terrorism trial of Khalid Zerkani, sentenced for radicalising and recruiting at least 59 youths, mostly from the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek, between 2012 and 2013.
Two of the most prominent convicts are 36-year-old Yassine Lachiri and 31-year-old Gelel Attar, both of whom where among the 31 men tried and sentenced in the Zerkani trial.
Ahead of his radicalisation, Lachiri had already been convicted of manslaughter for a drug-related murder. He is known to have travelled to Syria on at least two occasions in 2013.
Attar, who had known links to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the organisers of the 2015 Paris attacks, is believed to have left for Syria in January 2013.
While he reportedly returned to Belgium in May of that same year, his current whereabouts are unknown, De Standaard reports.
The move by the Brussels court follows several previous rulings to strip Belgian terrorist fighters of their nationality, as Turkish authorities live up to ongoing warnings that they would send foreign terrorist fighters back to their home countries.
In Belgian law, any double national who is convicted for terrorist offences and sentenced to at least five years imprisonment stands to lose their Belgian passport.
For convicts like Lachiri, a Belgo-Moroccan national, who do not revoke the court’s decision within the given delay, the move would mean they would be expulsed to Morocco.
Following a previous decision by the Brussels Court of Appeal to strip six IS supporters of their Belgian nationality, two of them had appealed the decision in an effort to remain Belgian.