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Brussels Reopens Painful Page With Start of Trial Over 2016 Terror Attacks


In this courtroom sketch, seven defendants sit behind a specially designed glass box, while two sit on the outside during the trial for the Brussels attacks that took place on March 22, 2016, at the Justitia building in Brussels, Dec. 5, 2022.

Belgium reopened a painful chapter in its recent history Monday, as the trial opened for alleged conspirators in the 2016 terror attacks around Brussels that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more.

Ten men stand accused of involvement in the March 2016 suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station — attacks authorities blamed on the Islamic State militant group.

Those on trial allegedly directed or aided the attacks, in which two homemade bombs exploded at the airport and another in a packed subway station.

The three suicide bombers died, along with nearly three dozen victims from a raft of different countries.

Five of the defendants also stood trial in Paris over the 2015 attacks in the French capital that killed 130 people. Among them is Salah Abdeslam, now serving life in prison as one of the Paris assailants.

The Paris and Brussels attacks — which investigators believe were authored by the same Belgium-based terrorist cell — count among the deadliest of a spate of Islamist terrorist assaults around Europe a few years ago.

At the trial’s opening Monday, defendant Mohamed Abrini complained of being humiliated by the security measures that he described as state vengeance. He warned the defendants might remain silent during this trial in response.

Valerie Gerard, a lawyer for Life4Brussels victims association, said the trial stirred up painful memories. She said some association members wanted to assist and even testify at the trial; others want nothing to do with it.

Also grueling, she said, were the tangled procedures for the victims to get compensation for the attacks.

The spate of terror attacks in Europe a few years ago has given way to other crises — including COVIC-19 and now the war in Ukraine. The trial’s hearings may take up to eight months, with a jury deciding on the verdict.

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