The Belgian courts have found eight of those accused guilty of the terrorist attacks on March 22, 2016 in Brussels: six have been found responsible for terrorist murder and another two for belonging to a terrorist group. In addition, the ruling raises from 32 to 35 the final death toll in the attacks seven years ago at the Belgian capital’s airport and a central metro station. Among those convicted of murder is Salah Abdeslam, the main defendant and sole survivor of the terrorist attack in Paris a few months earlier. The ruling came after a trial that lasted seven months and a deliberation that lasted 18 hours, the longest in Belgian judicial history.
The six defendants found guilty of murder are, in addition to Abdeslam, Mohamed Abrini, Usama Krayem, Ali El Haddad Asufi, Bilal El Makhoukhi and Usama Atar. The latter, in fact, has been tried in absentia, since it is presumed that he is dead. The Islamic State group (ISIS) announced his death in 2019, although the Belgian state has not been able to confirm it. Atar has also been declared head of the terrorist organization that prepared the attacks in Brussels.
Two other defendants have been acquitted of the crime of murder: Sofien Ayari and Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa, who have been found guilty of belonging to a terrorist group. For their part, the two brothers Smail and Ibrahim Farisi have been acquitted of their crimes. The reading of the long ruling continued after the main accusations were known.
In principle, the conviction of the French Abdeslam and the Belgian-Moroccan Mohamed Abrini will not have a real effect for them, since both are already sentenced to life imprisonment in France for the attacks in Saint-Denis and the Bataclan theater, perpetrated in November 2015 in the French capital.
When deciding whether the 10 defendants were guilty or innocent, the popular jury, made up of 12 members (it has had 24 substitutes) has had to answer 287 questions. The verdict has been waiting, not only because of the duration of the trial and the final deliberation. Also due to the delay in the announcement, scheduled for two in the afternoon this Tuesday and finally made public five and a half hours later.
This Tuesday only the verdict of the jury has been known. The sentence, on the other hand, will be known already in September, when the 12 components of the jury and three judges will meet again to announce the sentences.
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The increase in the number of deaths from 32 to 35 is due to the fact that the jury has considered that the subsequent deaths of three victims were directly related to the attacks, despite taking place months and even years later. One of them occurred in May 2022, after the victim had undergone euthanasia due to the psychological suffering caused by the aftermath of the attack and which was considered unbearable. Another, who was fighting cancer that was under control thanks to medication, had to interrupt treatment due to injuries caused by the explosion in the subway and ended up passing away on October 28, 2017. The third victim suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide on April 18, 2021.
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