BRUSSELS, Belgium — A French jihadist found guilty of shooting dead four people in a terrorist attack at Brussels’ Jewish museum joked Monday, “Life goes on,” as prosecutors demanded he be jailed for life.
A jury last week convicted Mehdi Nemmouche of terrorist murder for the anti-Semitic gun rampage in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, a crime committed following his return from Syria’s battlefields.
The 33-year-old said, “Life goes on,” with a smirk, in his final words before the jury retired to consider his sentence. Prosecutors had branded him a “coward” and a “psychopath” and demanded a tough sentence.
“What we ask, without the slightest hesitation, is that you sentence Mehdi Nemmouche to life in prison,” prosecutor Yves Moreau told the Brussels criminal court.
After hearing closing statements from prosecution and defense lawyers, the 12 jurors and three judges left to decide what punishment he should face, with an announcement expected by the evening.
Nemmouche was found to have killed the four victims in less than 90 seconds, shooting them with a handgun and a Kalashnikov rifle, with what one paramedic who attended the scene called “surgical” precision.
Prosecutors also demanded a minimum 30-year prison sentence for Nacer Bendrer, 30, who was found guilty of being the co-author of the attack, because he supplied the weapons Nemmouche used.
“Mr. Nemmouche, you are just a coward. You kill people by shooting them from behind. You kill old women by shooting them with an assault rifle. You kill because it gives you pleasure to kill,” Moreau said.
Urging the jury to take a firm line, Moreau said: “If you say that in Belgium one can be a terrorist without being punished very severely, then we must not be surprised when we see people arrive in this country with bombs or assault rifles in their suitcases.”
Bendrer said he was ashamed that he had ever met Nemmouche, saying, “He’s not even a man, he’s a monster.”
Prosecutors say the attack was the first carried out in Europe by a jihadist returning to the continent after fighting in Syria.
The Brussels killings came 18 months before the November 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead.
Nemmouche denied the charges against him, with his lawyers alleging that the museum shooting was not the work of the Islamic State group, but a possible “targeted execution” aimed at Mossad agents.