China has been simulating attacks on U.S. Navy ships, Taiwan says By Reuters

© Reuters. Sebastien Courtoy, lawyer of Smail Farisi speaks to members of the media as he arrives in the courtroom at the start of a preliminary hearing ahead of the trial of 10 people for the attacks at a Brussels metro station and the city’s airport in March 2016,

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The trial of 10 men accused of participating in the 2016 Brussels bombings that killed 32 people began on Monday with defence lawyers arguing their clients should not be put in glass boxes like animals in a zoo.

Monday’s launch, in the former headquarters of NATO in a Brussels suburb, focused on procedural matters. The trial proper into the Islamist bombings at Brussels airport and on the city’s metro in March 2016, with the indictments and testimony, is due to begin in October.

The special court for one of Belgium’s largest trials features a series of individual glass compartments into which nine of the accused were placed on Monday.

“Is this a palace of justice or Antwerp zoo? That’s my point. Everyone who sees them will say that they are guilty and that they should stay in the boxes,” said Sebastien Courtois, lawyer for one of the accused, Smail Farisi.

President judge Laurence Massart heard arguments on the topic on Monday and is expected to making a ruling on the issue, as well as any other procedural points.

The jury trial includes six men already convicted in June by a French court for their involvement in the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

They include Mohamed Abrini, who prosecutors say went to Brussels Airport in March 2016 with two suicide bombers, but fled without detonating his suitcase of explosives, and Osama Krayem, a Swedish national accused of planning to be a second bomber on Brussels’ metro.

Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the French trial, is also among the accused, along with others prosecutors say hosted certain attackers. The 10th man accused is presumed killed in Syria.

Massart asked the defendants to confirm their ages and previous addresses before most then returned to their cells. None of those present have been required to enter any plea, in line with Belgian court procedure.

Lawyers for victims of the attacks, including some 340 people injured, expressed hope the trial would settle issues of compensation and answer many questions.

“They hope the accused will speak up and explain what happened … They hope that the debate will take place in a serene manner,” said Aline Fery, lawyer for a group of 260 victims.

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By Reuters