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Jury in Brussels bombing trial set to consider verdict

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The accused are led into the courtroom by special police during the ongoing trial of the 2016 Brussels attacks at the Justitia building in Brussels, Thursday, July 6, 2023. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Pool via REUTERS

A jury in the trial of 10 men accused of involvement in the triple suicide attack at Brussels airport and the city’s metro claimed by Islamic State in 2016, is set to consider its verdict, bringing to an end the country’s largest court case.

The Brussels bombings killed 15 men and 17 women from almost a dozen countries — many of whom lived in the city which is home to European Union institutions and NATO. More than 300 were injured.

The accused men will have a last opportunity to speak before the jury has to answer more than 300 questions and will go into full isolation for about two weeks, unprecedented in Belgium.

Six of the accused were found guilty in June 2022 of involvement in terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, which killed 130 people.

Eight of the men, including the main suspect in the Paris trial, Salah Abdeslam, are charged with murder and attempted murder in a terrorist context as well as participation in the activities of a terrorist group.

One of the group is presumed to have been killed in Syria and is being tried in absentia.

The trial, which was held in the former headquarters of NATO and is estimated to have cost at least 35 million euros ($37.97 million), lasted seven months with nearly 1,000 people represented, underscoring how many lives were impacted by the attacks.

Sebastien Delhez, a lawyer for Life 4 Brussels, representing more than 300 victims, said his clients were very exhausted by the trial and there was now a sense of impatience for the verdict – even though he didn’t think there would be any surprise in terms of the conclusions reached.

In accordance with Belgian court procedure, the defendants have not declared whether they are innocent or guilty.

The trial, which was open to the public even though attendance remained low, was marred with complaints from the accused regarding the conditions of their daily transport from jail, including strip searches, blindfolds, and controversial glass boxes.

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