Defense in Belgium Terror Attack Trial Accused of Spreading Conspiracy Theories

'The defense will try to either minimize the anti-Semitic character of the crime or follow a conspiracy theory discourse,' Belgian Jewish leader says, referencing conspiracies surrounding victims employment by Israeli government

A court sketch showing Mehdi Nemmouche (C) during his trial at the Brussels Justice Palace, January 10, 2019.
AFP

On the opening of a murder trial over the 2014 slaying of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, a leader of Belgian Jewry accused the defendant’s lawyers of spreading conspiracy theories.

Yohan Benizri, president of the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations, was quoted by Le Telegramme as making these accusations several days before the opening Thursday of Mehdi Nemmouche’s trial. Nemmouche, who fought with jihadists in Syria, has denied any involvement in the killings.

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The conspiracy theories, Benizri said, are rooted in the fact that two of the four victims were Israeli tourists who worked for Israel’s government.

Soon after the killings, Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan and others suggested a cover-up, claiming the couple, Emmanuel and Mira Riva, were working for Mossad.

“The defense will try to either minimize the anti-Semitic character of the crime or follow a conspiracy theory discourse,” Benizri said. He added he feared this would reinforce such trends in society.

Nemmouche was caught in the French city of Marseille during a random bag search. He was found to be in possession of weapons that match the ones used at the museum.

His trial opened more than four years after his arrests partly because of his extradition. Belgian and French authorities have arrested and released dozens of additional suspects.