Museum attack suspect denounces intimidation

AFP
Belgian prosecutors Yves Moreau and Bernard Michel (right) look on on January 29, 2019 at the Brussels Justice Palace during the trial of Nemmouche, accused of shooting four people dead at a Jewish museum in Brussels in May 2014. Photo: AFP

BRUSSELS: The French alleged jihadist accused of carrying out a gun massacre in Belgium’s Jewish Museum denounced any attempt to intimidate trial lawyers and jurors Thursday.

Appearing in the dock in Brussels main criminal court, 33-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche again denied shooting dead four people in the 2014 anti-Semitic attack.

And, speaking after a lawyer presenting a witness complained that his office had been burgled and a replica Kalashnikov left on his desk, he “condemned any act of intimidation.”

Nemmouche has so far more-or-less maintained his silence during his trail for four “terrorist murders”, which began on January 10, but took to the stand on Thursday.

“I say again that I am not the museum killer,” he said. Defence lawyers insist evidence linking Nemmouche to the attack is weak, and have hinted at a murky conspiracy.

On Wednesday, lawyer Vincent Lurquin complained that his laptop and two files had been stolen from his office, and a baseball bat and fake gun left to intimidate him.

Lurquin represents attack survivor Clara Billeke Villalobos, an 81-year-old Chilean artist, who witnessed the killings and has testified during the case.

Nacer Bendrer, a 30-year-old fellow Frenchman who allegedly supplied Nemmouche with the Kalashnikov assault rifle and pistol used in the attack, also faces life in prison.

Investigators said Nemmouche attacked the museum shortly after returning from Syria, where he had allegedly fought on behalf of jihadist groups.

Six days after the attack, Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French port city of Marseille. Bendrer was arrested in Marseille in December 2014.

The trial is due to last until the end of February or early March.

Later Thursday, two Israeli women will testify, coming face-to-face for the first time with the man accused of killing their parents Miriam and Emmanuel Riva in the attack. – AFP

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