’The defense system used by Nemmouche corresponds to his antisemitism,’’ said Michèle Hirsch, lawyer representing CCOJB, which is a civil party in the trial. ‘’He tried to represent himself as the victim of a Jewish plot, of the prosecutor and of the investigators,’’ she added.
BRUSSELS—The Jewish community of Belgium welcomed the Criminal Court’s conviction of Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche for the terror attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum in 2014, which resulted in the deaths of four people.
The 12 popular jurors responded ”yes” to all questions whether Nemmouche was guilty of the deadly attack. They also confirmed the antisemitic character of the attack.
His accomplice, Nacer Bendrer, was also found guilty of aiding the attacker by providing the weapons.
Sentencing will be announced later this month.
In the attack that lasted less than 90 seconds,, Nemmouche, 33, shot dead two Israeli tourists, Miriam and Emmanuel Riva, a volunteer worker, Dominique Sabrier, and a museum employee Alexandre Strens, in May 2014.
Over the course of the trial, Nemmouche’s defense lawyers argued that he had been caught up in a plot targeting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad – arguments which were denounced by the President of CCOJB, the umbrella representative group of Jewish organisations in Belgium, Yohan Benizri, as “a nauseating conspiracy theory.”
Prosecutors said Nemmouche fought in Syria for a jihadist group before returning to Europe to carry out the attack.
The two-month-long trial involved testimony from French journalists who had been prisoners of the Islamic State terror group in Syria. One of the journalists, Nicolas Henin, told the court: “I have absolutely no doubt about the fact that Mehdi Nemmouche who is present here was my jailer and torturer in Syria under the name of Abu Omar.” He described him as “sadistic, playful and narcissistic”.
The court also heard the testimony of the orphaned daughters of Miriam and Emmanuel Riva, tourists from Israel who were killed in the attack. The couple had been celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary.
Ayalet, 19, and Shira, 21, described a mother “devoted to her family” and an unassuming father who “loved to travel”.
“Their childhood has been stolen from them,” one of their lawyers told the court, “as they have been forced to grow up prematurely.”
“May the name of this terrorist be forgotten, and may we only remember the verdict and the resilience of our democratic institutions, our community, and the Belgian population,’’ stated Yohan Benizri after the verdict of the popular jury was announced Thursday evening.
He added : “I can only strongly condemn and regret that some Belgian lawyers, which my education prevent me from accurately describing, attempted to shake our values by bringing disgraceful theories in front of our highest criminal court. The same lawyers will continue to criticize our justice system because they lost so dramatically. But nothing should derail us from our relentless fight for our values.”
During the three month trial, Sebastian Courtoy, Nemmouche’s lawyer, suggested that his client was recruited in Lebanon in January 2013 by Iranian or Lebanese intelligence to join the ranks of IS. But this claim went unsubstantiated by anything concrete.
According to Courtoy, the murder was not an IS attack, but a “targeted execution of Mossad agents” – a reference to the Israeli intelligence agency, which he claimed the Israeli couple belonged to.
Prosecutor Yves Moreau said the defence arguments were “complete nonsense” and they should “stop the joking”.
Courtoy and the other Nemmouche lawyer,Henri Laquay, are controversial personalities who 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, which is a civil party in the trial. ‘’He tried to represent himself as the victim of a Jewish plot, of the prosecutor and of the investigators,’’ she added.
After the verdict was read, Michele Hirsch said she was ”proud of Belgium’s justice.”