BRUSSELS (AP) — A jury is expected to render its verdict Tuesday over Belgium’s deadliest peacetime attack, suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a busy subway station in 2016 that killed 32 people in a wave of violence in Europe claimed by the Islamic State group.
Among the 10 defendants is Salah Abdeslam, who already is serving a life sentence without parole in France over his role in attacks that hit Paris cafes, the Bataclan theater and France’s national stadium in 2015. The suspects in Brussels were tried on charges including murder, attempted murder and participation in the acts of a terrorist group.
The biggest trial in Belgium’s judicial history unfolded over more than half a year in a special court to address the exceptional case. Survivors and families of victims hoped the trial and verdict would help them work through the trauma and find closure.
The morning rush hour attacks on March 22, 2016 at Zavantem Airport and on the Brussels subway’s central commuter line deeply shook the city — headquarters of the European Union and NATO — and put the country on edge. In addition to the 32 people killed, nearly 900 others were wounded or suffered serious mental trauma.
The 12 jurors have been deliberating since early July over some 300 questions the court asked them to consider before reaching a verdict. Tuesday’s expected decision will address whether or not the suspects are guilty of various charges; eventual sentencing will be decided in a separate process and not expected before September. If convicted, some could face up to 30 years in prison.
Abdeslam was the only survivor among the Islamic State extremists who struck Paris in November 2015 and were part of a Franco-Belgian network that went on to target Brussels four months later.
Also on trial in Brussels is Mohamed Abrini, childhood friend of Abdeslam and a Brussels native who walked away from Zaventem airport after his explosives failed to detonate.