Belgium told to compensate extradited terror suspect
Belgium was wrong to extradite a former Tunisian professional footballer turned convicted Al-Qaeda fighter to the United States and must pay him compensation, Europe's top rights court ruled Thursday.
Nizar Trabelsi, who was arrested just two days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2003 for plotting a suicide truck bombing against a Belgian air base where American troops are stationed.
The 43-year-old was extradited to the United States in October 2013 where he faces a possible life sentence without possibility of parole.
But the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled that the Belgian government must pay Trabelsi 60,000 euros ($79,000) in damages and 30,000 euros in costs.
The court said the possibility of an irreducible life term violated the “prohibition of torture” article in the European Convention of Human Rights.
It also ruled that Belgium’s failure to observe a suspension of extradition ordered by the court had breached an article in the convention regarding the protection of a citizen’s rights of appeal.
Belgium had further made it more difficult for him to appeal before his extradition by keeping him in solitary confinement, the court ruled.
Washington had sought his extradition since 2008, suspecting him of also being behind a more devastating Al-Qaeda plot.
A US indictment accused Trabelsi of meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001 to volunteer for a suicide attack against US interests.
He then allegedly prepared for the attack in the following months by obtaining chemicals in Europe and enlisted associates to help him scout a US military facility used by the US government and US Air Force.
In June 2001, Trabelsi traveled to Pakistan to obtain money from an Al-Qaeda associate to carry out the mission, according to the indictment. He rented an apartment a month later in Brussels and purchased chemicals to produce a 1,000-kilogram (2,200-pound) bomb.
Trabelsi faces US terror charges including conspiring to kill Americans outside the United States.
Trabelsi played football in Germany for Fortuna Dusseldorf, but later fell into drug use and became drawn towards extremist ideology.