(Brussels) Several defendants in the trial of the 2016 jihadist attacks in Brussels denounced Friday the “systematic” strip searches suffered for the transfer to the courthouse, Mohamed Abrini threatening again to desert the box if the police do not put there not end.
“It really is hysteria. We have to stop all that, in these conditions I will not come”, launched the Belgian-Moroccan known as the “man in the hat” who had given up blowing himself up on March 22, 2016 at Brussels airport.
That day, suicide attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group had killed 32 people and injured several hundred at the airport and in the metro of the Belgian capital.
Abrini’s protests came not in the context of the current assize trial, but during a hearing before a judge in chambers of the Brussels court hearing a complaint from him – with five other defendants detainees – regarding daily transfers.
The complaint targets the Belgian Minister of Justice. This dispute, which gives rise to a trial in the trial, will be decided “at the latest on December 30, perhaps before”, announced the magistrate at the end of the hearing.
In concrete terms, six of the nine defendants appearing at the assizes (a tenth was tried in his absence) complained of being subjected to “humiliating” treatment, mainly because of the obligation to strip naked every day in front of three police officers responsible for verifying that they do not hide a dangerous object in their private parts.
Among these complainants is Salah Abdeslam, who was absent on Friday morning, while Abrini and four other defendants took the opportunity to speak out to reiterate their grievances. The civil hearing was organized in the Justitia building in the secure room where the Assize Court sits.
During these strip searches, “we are spoken to like dogs,” protested Tunisian Sofien Ayari, Abdeslam’s companion on the run.
“We constantly humiliate them, it makes it impossible to hold a calm debate,” summarized Stanislas Eskenazi, lawyer for Mohamed Abrini, before journalists.
Delphine Paci, who defends Salah Abdeslam, attacked the “systematic” nature of these excavations.
According to her, the measure should only be practiced after “an individual decision” from the prison management justifying its necessity “with precise clues”.
Conversely, M.e Bernard Renson, for the Belgian State, defended a “not disproportionate” practice, likely to limit any risk of aggression or even escape during the transfer.
“The potential danger exists with each transfer, which explains these repeated measures”, argued the lawyer, “any object can be used as a weapon even a plastic cutlery or a toothbrush”.