Lawyer in Jewish museum murder trial defiant after fake gun ‘threats’ (lead)
A lawyer for a survivor of the Brussels Jewish museum attack said Wednesday he found a fake rifle in his office after a burglary, denouncing a climate of “fear” and “threats” he would defy.
Lawyer Vincent Lurquin reported his laptop and two files — including one dealing with the deadly anti-Semitic gun attack in May 2014 — were missing from his Brussels office.
“The plaintiff also found on his desk a baseball bat and a replica of a Kalashnikov-type weapon,” the Brussels prosecutors’ office said.
“Advised of the facts, the Brussels prosecutors’ office immediately opened an investigation for burglary and threats using symbols.”
Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, is on trial in Brussels charged with shooting dead four people at the museum with a pistol and a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Lurquin, lawyer for survivor Clara Billeke Villalobos, an 81-year-old Chilean artist, said he would not be intimidated.
“Those who want to frighten us will not succeed,” Lurquin told Belgian media.
“We will continue to help (jurors) judge without hatred, without fear. With the threats that may be sent to us, we will not yield to blackmail,” the lawyer said.
“This is also part of the job of being a lawyer,” Lurquin added.
RTBF has reported that witnesses had earlier expressed fear of coming to testify.
Lurquin’s client Villalobos has said that her life was upended by the May 24, 2014, attack on the museum, which left two Israeli visitors, a Belgian museum employee and a French volunteer dead.
During testimony on January 18, Villalobos said she remained “in a state of numbness”, more than four years after the events.
Both Nemmouche and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who allegedly supplied the weapons, face life in prison if convicted of charges of terrorist murder.
Investigators say Nemmouche was the gunman and attacked shortly after returning from Syria, where he had allegedly fought on behalf of jihadist groups.
Both Nemmouche and Bendrer deny the charges and the high-profile trial could last until the start of March.
Lurquin told Belgian media the second file stolen from his desk concerned the case of Abdelkader Belliraj, a Morrocan-Belgian jailed for life in Morocco in 2009.
Belliraj was accused of heading a radical Islamist network and of committing six murders in Belgium in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
He added that the burglary was “extremely targeted.”