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Brussels attacks | Five defendants leave the courtroom to protest their transfer conditions



(Brussels) A box strike to protest against their “unworthy” extraction conditions: Salah Abdeslam and four of his co-defendants left the courtroom on Wednesday, on the third day of the trial of the Brussels attacks which left 32 dead on March 22, 2016.

This departure in close ranks of the five main defendants, already convicted in France for their participation in the jihadist attacks of November 13, 2015, poses the risk of a minimal, or even zero, participation in the Brussels hearing.

“Everything is done to keep quiet. […] If no one speaks, there can be no trial, ”said Ali El Haddad Asufi, while his box neighbors, Salah Abdeslam, Sofien Ayari, Osama Krayem and Mohamed Abrini got up and left without a word.

As Mohamed Abrini, “the man in the hat” who gave up blowing himself up at Brussels airport on March 22, 2016, had done from the opening of the debates on Monday, Ali El Haddad Asufi denounced the conditions of extraction and transfer to which they are subjected daily.

Blindfolded, handcuffed, naked searches and kneeling, but also “camera in the toilet” in the cell of the courthouse, located on the former NATO site in Brussels.

“Break us psychologically”

“We are humiliated every morning. […] Everything is done to break us psychologically,” vilified Ali El Haddad Asufi, accused of providing logistical support to the perpetrators of the attacks that left 32 dead and hundreds injured at Brussels-Zaventem airport and in the metro of the European capital. .

“I have been waiting for my trial for six years and claiming my innocence. We don’t have the means to express ourselves calmly”, continued this 38-year-old Belgian-Moroccan.

“All we want is to talk, all we want is to defend ourselves”, he further assured, asking “dignified measures”, like “all litigants”.

The president of the assize court Laurence Massart reaffirmed that she did not have the “competence” to relax the transfer conditions, but promised to write to the competent authorities.

“The court hopes that the trial will take place as calmly as possible,” said the magistrate, before Mr. El Haddad Asufi left the box in turn.

The president adjourned the hearing around 4 p.m. (10 a.m. Eastern Time), explaining that she had “a few letters to write to the administrative services” before they closed “for the night”.

The proceedings are due to resume Thursday morning with the continuation by the prosecution of the reading of the indictment, a summary of the investigations of more than 450 pages. The attorneys general read a little less than half of this document in two days.

“New Story”

In total, seven defendants appear detained. Two others are free and a tenth, presumed dead in Syria, is tried in absentia.

The desertion of the box by five of them, “it’s more than a mood swing, it’s a total fed up, it’s exhaustion”, declared Stanislas Eskenazi, who defends Mohammad Abrini.

“What we are asking for is that we have a fair trial. And for that, calm conditions are needed, ”added the lawyer.

Ali El Haddad Asufi’s counsel, Jonathan De Taye, announced on Monday a formal notice from the Ministry of Justice to obtain the relaxation of security measures.

The ministry’s response “is negative”, he said. “We will wait for things to settle down, but there is an urgency, it is not tenable”, continued Me De Taye, saying he is considering remedies.

This stunt comes after a first controversy over the boxes, which had postponed the start of the trial by almost two months, and ten days before the interrogations of the accused, scheduled from December 19.

The Ministry of Justice “must absolutely remedy the situation”, reacted in a press release the collective Life4Brussels, which represents around 300 civil parties.

“The victims were abused for more than six years. […] After the saga of the boxes, today, a new saga risks undermining this trial. It is not possible for us that the defendants do not take part in this trial, ”adds the collective.

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