A jury on Tuesday found six people guilty of terrorist murder for extremist attacks in Brussels in 2016 that killed 32 people and were claimed by the Islamic State group in Belgium’s deadliest peacetime violence, according to Belgian media.
Among those convicted for their role in the suicide bombings at Brussels airports and metro stations is Salah Abdeslam, who is serving a life sentence without parole in France for his role in the attacks on Paris cafes, the Bataclan theater and the French national stadium in 2015.
The verdict was reported by the RTBF television station, Le Soir newspaper and the news websites HLN and Nieuwsblad.
The chief justice read the verdict and the explanation of the 12-person jury, who clarified their links to IS and its extremist ideology. The reading of the verdict is expected to take several hours. Sentencing will be decided in a separate process, not before September.
In addition to the six people found guilty of terrorist murder, four others in the trial were acquitted or face other charges.
The largest trial in Belgian judicial history took place over seven months in a special court to deal with the special case. Survivors and victims’ families hope the trial and verdict will help them get through what happened and find an end.
The morning rush hour attacks on March 22, 2016 at Zavantem Airport and on the central commuter route of the Brussels metro rocked the city, home to the European Union and NATO headquarters, and put the country in a difficult position. In addition to the 32 people killed, nearly 900 others were injured or suffered serious mental trauma.
Jamila Adda, president of the Life4Bruxelles victims association, assembled a group of survivors at the special court to hear the verdict on Tuesday. Among them was a man named Frederic, who said the “brutal crime” of March 22 still haunts him.
“We’ve been waiting for this for seven years, seven years weighing heavily on the victims. … We’re waiting for the verdict with impatience and a bit of heartache,” he told the AP news agency. Frederic, one of the passengers who survived the attack at Maelbeek metro station, spoke out on the condition that his last name not be released to protect his identity as a victim of trauma.
Survivors supported each other during the proceedings, some arriving every day. “The important thing is to be together, to hear the verdict of justice,” Frederic said. And then, they hope “can turn the page”.
The 12 jurors have been discussing since early July about 300 questions the court is asking them to consider before reaching a verdict. The decision scheduled for Tuesday will address whether each suspect committed a different crime. and may take several hours to be read out.
The final verdict will be decided in a separate process. If convicted, some could face up to 30 years in prison.
Abdeslam was the sole survivor of the Islamic State extremists who attacked Paris in November 2015 and was part of a Franco-Belgian network that targeted Brussels four months later. After months on the run following the Paris attacks, Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March 18, 2016 and his arrest may have prompted other members of the IS group to hastily plan an attack on the Belgian capital.
Also found guilty of terrorist murder at the Brussels trial was Mohamed Abrini, Abdeslam’s childhood friend and Brussels native, who left Zaventem airport after his explosives failed to detonate.
Oussama Atar, who was identified as capable of organizing deadly attacks in both Paris and Brussels, was convicted in absentia of terrorist murder. He is believed to have died during the final months of the Islamic State group fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.