Defendant slams security at Brussels attacks trial

Defendant slams security at Brussels attacks trial

Defendants are escorted into a glass box on Monday at Belgium's largest ever criminal trial
Defendants are escorted into a glass box on Monday at Belgium's largest ever criminal trial

BRUSSELS - A defendant on trial over the 2016 bombings in Brussels on Monday charged in court that the suspects were being "humiliated" by draconian security measures and threatened to remain silent unless conditions improved.

Ten men are on trial accused of directing or aiding suicide attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station near EU headquarters that killed 32 people, and which were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian-Moroccan who decided against blowing himself up at the airport, asked to speak after the presiding judge said Belgium's largest-ever criminal trial should not be "state vengeance".

Evidential hearings began on Monday after jury selection kicked off last week.

"We are being humiliated!" Abrini told the court. "I have been subjected to vengeance for seven years," he added.

He described the conditions of his transfer to the court as "pitiful," marked by strip searches, blindfolds, and "deafening satanic music."

He warned: "Things must change, otherwise I will stay silent until the end of the trial."

Defence lawyers also criticised security conditions for the defendants.

"Every morning they examine the folds of my client's anus. Is that dignified? What is going to come out of my client's anus? A revolver?" said Jonathan De Taye, a lawyer representing another defendant, Ali El Haddad Asufi.

He asked that the justice ministry ease the measures.

The defendants are due to take the stand starting on December 19 and victims' testimony is expected to begin mid-January.

Hundreds of travellers and transport staff were maimed in the March 22, 2016 attacks and six years on many victims, relatives and rescuers remain traumatised.

Investigators believe that the same Belgium-based cell also carried out the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks, which was also claimed by IS and which killed 130 people.

Five of the nine defendants in the dock in Belgium have already been convicted separately in France, including prime suspect Abdeslam Salah.

He is serving life without parole in France and faces a further sentence in Belgium.

A tenth man is being tried in absentia, believed to have been killed in Syria.

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