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Brussels court convicts six of terrorist murder in 2016 attacks

Brussels court convicts six of terrorist murder in 2016 attacks

Brussels, 25 July 2023 (dpa/MIA) - A Brussels court on Tuesday found six of the 10 suspects guilty of terrorist murder for their role in the 2016 terror attacks which left initially 32 dead and injured hundreds in the Belgian capital.

According to the Belgian news agency Belga, three suspects in the attacks were acquitted of that charge. The sentences will be decided in September.

A 10th suspect is believed to have died in Syria.

According to Belga, the jury also decided to hold the six convicted defendants accountable for the deaths of three additional people who died after the attacks, either after a long illness or by suicide.

That brings the official death toll to 35, the agency said.

Apart from terrorist murder, the 10 defendants were charged with attempted terrorist murder and participation in a terrorist organization.

The suicide bombings carried out on March 22, 2016 targeted the city's airport and a metro station. They took place at a time when Europe was on edge due to previous terrorist attacks.

Six of the nine defendants put on trial for the Brussels attack already received long prison sentences from a French court for their roles in a 2015 terrorist attack in Paris in which 130 people were killed.

Tuesday's ruling was handed down after a jury of 12 deliberated for over two weeks.

The most prominent defendant is Salah Abdeslam, who was on the run for months following the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

He was previously sentenced to life imprisonment by a French court as well as to 20 years in jail in a separate trial for having shot at police shortly before his 2016 arrest in Brussels.

Mohamed Abrini, also already sentenced for life imprisonment in Paris, is in court in Belgium after having travelled to the airport in Brussels together with one of the suicide bombers, where he abandoned his explosives.

Oussama Atar, who is considered the leading figure of the terrorist network behind the attacks, was again tried in absentia. He is believed to have died in Syria.

Three others suspects have previously been sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison for their role in the Paris terror attacks.

Tuesday's verdicts brings a painful chapter of Belgian history closer to an end.

Several of the accused had been surveilled by Belgian authorities ahead of the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, but authorities failed to prevent the attacks, Belgian media reported.

The suspects faced more than 900 civil plaintiffs, including survivors with lasting physical and psychological injuries, the bereaved relatives of those killed and first responders.

In recent years, victims and victims' organizations have repeatedly complained about insufficient and cumbersome support offered by the state.

The trial, which lasted nine months, posed a major challenge to Belgium's judicial system, which is plagued by chronic understaffing and a lack of resources, news agency Belga reported.