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the Belgian trial of the “little hands” of the commandos has begun

“We scraped the bottoms of the drawers. These are the residues of the file”. A Belgian court began on Tuesday under criticism from the defense the trial of 14 people suspected of having provided even minimal assistance to the perpetrators of the jihadist attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris.

Among the 14 defendants tried before the Brussels court, nine were present on Tuesday afternoon for the first half-day of hearing. Two are presumed dead in Syria and tried in absentia. Three were absent.

Up to 5 years in prison

This part of the investigation into the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis which left 130 dead concerns suspects excluded from the French procedure, but suspected by Belgium of having hosted, provided money or transported to the airport some commando jihadists. Most of them have to answer for “participation in the activities of a terrorist group”, which can be worth up to five years in prison.

The prosecution believes that they necessarily knew the “terrorist” intentions of those they helped, which their lawyers will dispute in this trial scheduled until May 20. “Here we have the fifth wheel of the coach of the Islamic State, the residue of the file” of November 13, criticized Me Yannick De Vlaemynck before the media, assuring that the two defendants he is defending do not have “the terrorist profile.

Mohamed Abrini’s brother among the accused

One of them is Ibrahim Abrini, brother of Mohamed Abrini, currently on trial in Paris alongside Salah Abdeslam, who is the only surviving member of the commandos responsible for the attacks claimed by the Islamic State group. Questioned by the court, Ibrahim Abrini, born in 1995, the youngest of his siblings, denied on Tuesday having been Mohamed’s privileged interlocutor and having known precisely his projects, when the latter went to Syria at the end of June 2015 on the traces of Souleymane, their brother killed in the combat zone the previous year. According to the prosecution, Ibrahim and Mohamed nevertheless remained “in constant contact” at the time, thanks to a telephone that the little brother had specially dedicated to exchanges with his eldest, thus “facilitating” his movement on the lands of the Islamic State.

Sitting with his arms crossed facing the judges, in a green hooded sweatshirt, Ibrahim Abrini also remained evasive on the reasons for the abandonment of a bag containing the family laptop, on November 13 or 14, 2015, when the French capital had just been attacked. His brother had driven Salah Abdeslam to the Paris region two days before the attacks. The files erased from the computer “it’s a bit like the conversations with Mr. (Ahmed) Dahmani (another defendant in the November 13 trial, detained in Turkey, editor’s note), it was better at the time not to keep no documentation related to Syria and the jihad”, assured the one who refuses to consider himself “radicalized”.

material aid

In this trial, the material aid targeted by the prosecution could have intervened during the preparatory phase of the attacks or materialized after 13 November. Another defendant, Abid Aberkane, is on trial for hiding Salah Abdeslam at his mother’s home in Molenbeek the last days before the arrest of the French jihadist on March 18, 2016.

Another example: Smaïl Farisi is accused of having lent his apartment in Brussels from October 2015 to Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the three jihadists who blew themselves up during the attacks in Brussels (32 dead on March 22, 2016 ). He is the only defendant who must also be tried – at the Brussels assizes from the fall of 2022 – for these attacks committed by the same cell and also claimed by IS. Smaïl Farisi is one of the ten defendants in the March 22 file.

From the start of the trial, his lawyer Sébastien Courtoy caused a procedural incident by challenging the jurisdiction of the criminal court to judge him, on the grounds that two proceedings accuse him “of a single offense”. “We are trying to bring the Brussels attacks to trial in violation of the referral to the Assize Court,” he protested. Me Courtoy also underlined that the defense of Smaïl Farisi would justify hearing certain defendants of the Parisian trial of November 13. His role is “anecdotal”, argued the lawyer, accusing Belgian justice of having “scraped the bottoms of drawers” in this investigation.

After an interruption of the hearing, the court decided that it would decide this question when it delivered its judgment, expected no later than June 30. The trial continues all day Friday, with the continuation of the interrogations of the defendants.