January 18, 2022

At the trial of the November 13 attacks, the disappointing testimony of the Belgian investigator “PFB 446 906 682”

Four places remained empty in the box of the accused, Thursday, November 25. Salah Abdeslam, Mohamed Abrini, Sofien Ayari and Osama Krayem had chosen not to take their place, protesting by their absence at the hearing against that of the Belgian police officers whose videoconference testimony will follow one another until December 9. “The refusal of the Belgian investigators to appear before your jurisdiction calls for the refusal of the one we are assisting to also appear”, said Me Olivia Ronen, lawyer for Salah Abdeslam, supported by her colleagues from the defense.

The question has been going through the debates for two months as “A sea serpent” – expression of the president of the court, Jean-Louis Périès. To sum up: around ten Belgian police officers called to testify wish, and it is their right, to do so anonymously and by videoconference, citing security reasons. They are the ones who carried out the greater part of the investigation and carried out almost all the arrests, Belgium having been the rear base of the terrorists, mainly Belgian.

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Several defense lawyers see this as a dodging strategy, and have been campaigning for two months for the arrival of these police officers to the stand, where they believe they have a better chance of obtaining answers. On Wednesday, a police officer who came from Vienna to discuss the case of two defendants arrested in Austria had received these praises of a black dress: “Your contribution would not have been the same if you had chosen the ease of videoconferencing. Your physical presence absurdly demonstrates the absolute contempt of Belgian investigators. “

“It will be detailed by a colleague”

Their choice of “distancing” goes all the more badly because, according to Me Ronen, some investigators had shown themselves on Belgian television a few weeks earlier, with their faces and names uncovered. President Périès had, at first, accepted the defense request, before a letter from the Belgian federal prosecutor explaining that, for lack of an anonymous videoconference, the Belgian police would simply not testify, forcing him to backpedal. Thursday, it is therefore on the giant screen of the room that 10 defendants out of 14 saw the investigator renamed “PFB 446 906 682” appear.

Hidden behind a surgical mask and surrounded by two magistrates from the Belgian prosecution, he retraced the path of five terrorists from the November 13 cell: Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh, members of the terraces commando; Bilal Hadfi, third bomber at Stade de France; Najim Laachraoui, pyrotechnician for the Paris attacks, and suicide bomber at Zaventem airport on March 22, 2016; Mohamed Belkaïd, killed by the Belgian police a week before the attacks in Brussels in a shooting during which Salah Abdeslam had fled.

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