Islamic terrorism trial to test new Belgian law
30 August 2005, BRUSSELS – Belgium is to put 13 suspects on trial in the autumn in what will be the first test of the country's new terrorism laws.
30 August 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgium is to put 13 suspects on trial in the autumn in what will be the first test of the country's new terrorism laws.
On Monday, a Brussels court ruled there was enough evidence to try 13 people, Moroccans or from Moroccan families, who are alleged to belong to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (MICG).
The extremist Islamic terrorist organisation is believed to have been involved in the bombings in Casablanca and Madrid, among others.
Four of the 13, who all live in Belgium, are considered to be leaders of the group: 39-year-old Abdelkader Hakimi, 29-year-old El Haski, 41-year-old Mostafa Lounani and 31-year-old Abdallah Ouahbour.
The men could face more than 10 years in prison under Belgium's new crime of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
The suspects, who were all arrested in Brussels or Maaseik between March and June 2004, are alleged to have been in regular contact with people involved in the Madrid or Casablanca bombings or with suspects wanted in Morocco. They are also accused of sheltering terrorists in their homes.
Prosecutors will claim that, although there is no evidence they directly participated in bombings, they helped with the logistical backup through, for instance, manufacturing false documents.
One man, Mourad Chabarou, who lived in Schaerbeek in Brussels, is also suspected of being ready to mount a suicide bombing somewhere outside Belgium, possibly in Iraq. Investigators say they have phone evidence of an attack being planned.
Lawyers for the suspects, however, argued in court that there was insufficient evidence to try the men. "Contacts, links, sympathy with people linked to the terrorist movement, is that really enough to consider that they participate in a terrorist organisation?" asked Filip Van Hende, the lawyer for Ouahbour.
"The central problem is in the law, not in the case," he added.
The lawyers said some of the suspects had been in contact with individuals believed to be responsible for bombings, but they had not been in touch for terrorism reasons. Hakimi's lawyer Sven Mary said: "They sometimes put up people who afterwards emerged to be wanted terrorists. In the majority of the cases, they were relatives."
The trial is expected to start in October or November, once the judges have looked at the 70 boxes or so of evidence involved in the case.
Four other suspects were also charged by Belgian prosecutors for the same offence, but they are facing other terrorist charges in other countries.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news