Trial of the attacks: after a week of interrogations, windows on the minds of the accused

Tags : Belgium, Brussels attacks, terrorism, Al Qaïda, ISIS, Islamic State, djihad, Syria,

Very dense, the week of hearing the accused has come to an end. Some came back very personally on their journey, others assumed their share of responsibility in the attacks. But on the merits of the case, the big questions remained unanswered.

It was one of the most anticipated sequences in the trial of the attacks of March 22, 2016, moreover after being seriously postponed because of the debate on the searches. The hearings of the accused, which were supposed to start on January 3, finally started on April 5 and lasted for a week. They ended at the end of a last day intended for questions from the federal prosecutor’s office, the civil parties and the defence. What to remember from these five days which were not marked by a dramatic turn of events, but were nevertheless rich in lessons?

No speech strike, far from it

It should first be noted that if the fear of not hearing the occupants of the box was still alive a few weeks ago – against a backdrop of incessant debate about their conditions of transfer -, it turned out to be pointless. All the defendants, with one exception, agreed to answer the questions of the court and the parties, sometimes adding length. Only Osama Krayem, sticking to his positions since the start of the trial, strictly asserted his right to silence – depriving everyone of explanations for his defection in extremis in Maelbeek, in particular.

While it was initially planned that the defendants be questioned before the hearings of the investigators and the testimonies of the victims, the order of the sequences was turned upside down to make them go last. The key to success ? For lawyer Me Xavier Carrette, who is defending the accused Ibrahim Farisi in this trial, this has certainly had a positive effect. “The fact of being confronted with the victims, of hearing them in their disarray, I believe that it destabilized some of them and that it perhaps gave them the desire to say things”, he evokes during an interruption of hearing. “We are not yet in the great satisfaction at the level of the statements, but we are better, in any case, compared to what we knew of the file. I believe that the beginnings of the answers, we have them, even if we don’t have them all yet. But hey there are still weeks and weeks of trial. »

On hunger for facts

Speak yes, but to say what? It will be remembered that the trial of the Paris attacks had given rise to some important revelations. Abrini had, for example, revealed there that he « was scheduled for the 13th » but also that he had discreetly met his friend Abdel Hamid Abaaoud in a hideout in Charleroi at the end of the summer of 2015 – meeting which was went under the radar of investigators. At this stage, we cannot say that such « surprises » have marked the past week. Nor, moreover, that the defendants put forward many concrete elements likely to contradict the findings of the investigators, as noted by Me Adrien Masset, the lawyer for the victims’ association V-Europe, evoking a certain  » drought” on the file. « What surprises me, and this is the idea I had after the first round of questions, it is that the accused are not breaking with the explanations which are given by the investigators and the examining magistrates ”, expresses the criminal lawyer. “However, the object of an assize trial is above all to say whether or not the facts have been established. And so far, the findings that had been made by the investigators were in line with the establishment of the facts. »

Abrini, of course, retraced the thread of “his” March 22 – from the Schaebeek hideout to the airport – and mentioned his desire to flee to Syria as soon as he returned from Paris on November 12. But for precise explanations on the course of his last night rue Max Roos and the content of his exchanges with Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui in the crucial moments, it will be necessary to go back.

The question of the final destination of the weapons of the cell, transmitted to Bilal El Malhoukhi on the eve of March 22, 2016 (one of the last major gray areas of the file), came up against the will assumed of the main interested party not to “swing” – the latter recognizing however his personal involvement in this aspect. “If it only involved me, I would say it, there is no problem,” replied the jihad veteran on Thursday, already sentenced in Belgium on his return from Syria. “The problem is that I entrusted them to people who I know are not linked to terrorism. They are not children at heart but they are not terrorists. »

Cracked shells

On the other hand, the exercise will indeed have made it possible to open more or less wide windows on the substance of the thought of each defendant agreeing to speak. We could thus hear Abrini pouring out his past as a delinquent, the latter specifying later, about his interest in the Islamic State group: “I needed to be framed. If I live in a country where they tell me that if I steal, they cut off my hand, I will never steal. Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa, meanwhile, was able to talk about his satisfaction at working for a good cause when he was working at the Red Cross, at the time of the events. Sofien Ayari, for his part, returned quite extensively and quite precisely to his Syrian wanderings. Recounting in particular his stay in Raqqa – where he remained in convalescence following a jaw injury -, he addressed with apparent sincerity his mounting anger at the violence affecting the region. “It wasn’t war anymore, it was something else, it was bombs falling on men, women, children… I’ve never felt such hatred. I was heartbroken, as you say here. I was mad with rage. »

Like him, several defendants made it a point of honor to weigh up the suffering caused by the attacks of March 22 and those experienced by the populations of the Middle East, attributed to the West. “I don’t see any difference between bombs falling from the sky and bombs in the metro,” said Bilal El Makhoukhi. The latter, who had experience of fighting in Syria, is also struggling to distance himself frankly. “I wasn’t there to pick flowers,” he replies to the president when she asks him if he was enthusiastic about the idea of ​​training in combat.

The defendants nevertheless wanted to apologize to the victims, like Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa, landlord of Abrini and Krayem before and after the attacks: “Me, it is since my first hearings in 2016 that I regret. I did not wait until 2023 for this. I’ve said it several times, I have some responsibility, even if it’s despite myself. “The man in the hat” also recognized “his share of responsibility”. But when his lawyer asked him if he would react differently today at the airport, Mohamed Abrini was unable to say that he would now try to warn someone or defuse his bomb. “That would be lying to you. I was in panic, I just wanted to run away. »

For others in question, asking for forgiveness is simply impossible. “It would be to recognize my responsibility in the facts. And me, I explained it here, they are not my victims” wanted to explain Salah Abdeslam, arrested four days before the attacks. A point of view shared by Ali El Haddad Asufi, for whom there can be no forgiveness without guilt: « It takes a lot of strength to forgive after what the victims have been through, but I never wanted what is happened” he wanted to make it known, finding it surprising, with regard to respect for the presumption of innocence, that a lawyer for the civil parties asked him if he regretted his actions.

#Brussels_attacks #Terrorisme #ISIS #AlQaïda #Etat_Islamique

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