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Investigators reject claim Mossad behind Brussels Jewish museum attack

Lawyer for defendant Mehdi Nemmouche vows he’ll prove that Israeli victims in the shooting worked for the intelligence agency

A court sketch made on January 22, 2019, at the Brussels Justice Palace, shows people watching video images during the trial of Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of shooting four people dead at a Jewish museum in Brussels. (Igor Preys/Belga/AFP)
A court sketch made on January 22, 2019, at the Brussels Justice Palace, shows people watching video images during the trial of Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of shooting four people dead at a Jewish museum in Brussels. (Igor Preys/Belga/AFP)

BRUSSELS — Judges investigating the Jewish museum attack in Brussels rejected on Tuesday defense claims that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency may have played a role.

Lawyers defending Mehdi Nemmouche deny charges that he shot dead four people at the museum in May 2014, suggesting instead that Mossad agents staged “a targeted execution.”

But investigating judges Claire Bruyneel and Berta Bernardo Mendez told the court there was no evidence to support such a claim.

“Is there an element which can suggest links with the Mossad?” presiding judge Laurence Massart asked the pair. “None,” the investigating judges replied.

A picture released on June 1, 2014, shows the 29-year-old suspected gunman in the Brussels Jewish Museum attack, French-Algerian Mehdi Nemmouche. (AFP)

Investigators allege that Nemmouche was the museum gunman who killed Israeli visitors Emmanuel Riva and his wife Miriam, a French volunteer and a Belgian receptionist.

However, lawyers for Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman, have told the trial that he “is not the killer.”

They said an image taken from surveillance footage had been manipulated and that this, plus the attitude of prosecutors, could suggest the murders were “not an attack by the Islamic State but a targeted execution by Mossad agents.”

Defense lawyer Sebastien Courtoy has promised to provide proof that Emmanuel Riva was not a simple accountant but the vice consul at Israel’s mission in Berlin.

“The Rivas worked for the Mossad, lived in Berlin and monitored Shiite movements,” Courtoy said.

Courtoy said the father of Belgian victim Alexandre Strens was of Moroccan origin and had been “flagged for subversive activities at the embassy of Iran.”

He alleged “there is a trail raised by [Belgian] state security that leads toward Iran and Hezbollah,” the Shiite terror group in Lebanon.

Sebastien Courtoy, the Belgian lawyer of Mehdi Nemmouche, speaks with reporters at the courthouse in Brussels on January 18, 2019. (John Thys/AFP)

Investigating judges Bruyneel and Mendez told the court the Rivas had lived in Berlin between 2008 and 2012, when Emmanuel Riva worked for the Israeli embassy.

The judges also said Riva’s wife Miriam had indeed worked for the Mossad until she retired, but as an accountant.

Miriam Riva had not been involved in field operations, according to the judges who traveled to Israel as part of the investigation.

Pieces of evidence, including clothes and a camera, are displayed at a court in Brussels on January 18, 2019, at the trial of Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of shooting four people dead at a Jewish museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014. (Dirk Waem/various sources/AFP)

Bruyneel and Mendez cited a memo from the Belgian intelligence services that said: “Information that has appeared stating [the Rivas] have a link with the Mossad and that it was a targeted assassination is unfounded.”

When Massart asked about his line of defense, Nemmouche replied: “My lawyers will explain later.”

Jewish community leaders have voiced fears that the defense will deflect attention from the anti-Semitic nature of the attacks.

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