BRUSSELS—As feared by the Jewish community, lawyers for a Frenchman standing on trial for a terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels s in 2014, in which four people were killed, are trying to play down the antisemitic nature of the attack and in turn are spreading conspiracy theories.
Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, the main suspect, and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who acknowledged that he supplied the weapons used in the attack, face a life sentence if convicted of the killings in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014.
Nemmouche is suspected of killing a couple of Israeli tourists, Myriam and Emmanuel . Riva, a French violunteer Dominique Sabrier and a Belgian museum employee Alexandre Strens.
The deadly attack, which lasted only 82 seconds, took place on a Saturday afternoon, a shooting that shocked Belgium and the world. Firing a pistol and then an assault rifle, the gunman killed the four people.
Nemmouche was arrested six days after the attack in Marseille, in southern France , alighting from a bus from Brussels. Authorities said he had a Kalashnikov and a pistol in his possession, identical to the weapons used in the museum attack. The suspect also had in his bag a GoPro camera, a large quantity of ammunition and was carrying a selection of newspaper articles about the museum killings, which were filmed by the building’s surveillance video cameras.
As a jihadist, Nemmouche fought with the Islamic State terror group a year before the attack and used to be the captor of four French journalists who were kept hostage in Syria.
During Tuesday’s audience at the Criminal Court in Brussels, Nemmouche lawyers, Sebastian Courtroy, Henri Laquay and Virginie Taelman alleged that an image taken from surveillance footage in the museum had been manipulated and that this, plus the attitude of prosecutors, could suggest the murders were “not an attack by the Islamic State but a targeted execution by Mossad agents,” referring to Israel’s intelligence service.
Courtoy and Laquay , two cntroversial lawyers, have in the past represented antisemitic and Holocaust denier comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala..
‘’The defense system used by Nemmouche corresponds to his antisemitism,’’ said Michèle Hirsch, lawyer representing CCOJB, the umbrella representative group of Belgian Jewish organisations, which is a civil party in the trial. ‘’He tries to represent himself as the victim of a Jewish plot, of the prosecutor and of the investigators,’’ she added.
However, as the reading of the Accusation Act showed last week, charges and evidence accusing Nemmouche appear to be overwhelming.
The civil parties are quiet confident. “The file is very well put together and leaves no room for doubt,” said David Ramet, y lawyerfor the Riva family.
The same for Adrien Masset, the lawyer of the Jewish Museum, who is waiting to hear the experts about the ‘’scientific evidence” of the non-guilt of Mehdi Nemmouche, as claimed by Nemmouche’s lawyers.
The trial is expected to last until March.