Defendants of the group Sharia4Belgium had their first week of court held in Antwerp. The 46 plus members of the Muslim organization face charges of inciting or participating in acts of terror. The leaders of the group are charged with recruiting Belgian Muslims to go and fight in Syria and Iraq for ISIS, and other members are charged with having gone.
As the court room settled down to begin the proceedings there were only nine defendants present for the trial, this was due in large part to the majority of the Sharia4Belgium members still believed to be in Syria or Iraq fighting alongside ISIS. Details about the whereabouts of the alleged terrorist and about their origins were carefully brought to light.
One of the 46 defendants on trial was discovered to have previously been employed at Belgian’s nuclear plant in Doel, Belgium. IIyass Boughalob was a former employee of the plant with access to the central core of the nuclear station. Though he is now on trial for his connections to ISIS and terrorist activities, grave concerns exist that such a radical was granted access to a potentially disaster making scenario. Boughalob is being tried in his absence as he is currently believed to be in Syria fighting with ISIS.
This piece of information is extremely interesting given that in August of this year, the Doel Nuclear Plant was forced to shut down due to sabotage. A spokesman for the inspection agency GDF Suez, confirmed the reports of sabotage. “There was an intentional manipulation, as somebody has tampered with the system used for emptying oil from the Alstom-made turbine.” No evidence has been presented to conclude the sabotage was the work of Boughalob, at this time.
Two of the defendants on trial but not present were defended by their lawyers and family members. The defense was not that these men were innocent of the charges but that the Belgium justice system was incompetent to try the men and instead their trial should be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This request fell on deaf ears as the Belgian court refused to consider this option.
The family of 23 year old suspected terrorist and ISIS member, Houssien, E. and his attorneys requested that his charges be dropped as they believed he had been killed in Syria. Houssien’s family has taken their death claim before the Belgian Family Court system in an attempt to have him declared dead. However, the criminal court explained that they would continue to actively pursue charges against the defendant to insure his death was not being faked in an attempt to avoid prosecution.
The trial was originally expected to wrap up by the weeks end but has gone on a bit longer than previously anticipated. As so many defendants are on trial and many of these individuals are not present, it may take a few more days than planned. Sharia4Belgium leaders on trial are facing a maximum sentence of 15 years while other members face up to 5 years in prison if convicted.