Verdict due in trial of Belgium Jewish museum attack suspect
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Verdict due in trial of Belgium Jewish museum attack suspect

Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of killing four in 2014 Brussels shooting, has tried to argue he was tricked as part of plot involving Israeli Mossad

A court sketch made on January 10, 2019, shows Mehdi Nemmouche (C), accused of the terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014, during his trial at the Brussels Justice Palace. (Benoit Peyruco/AFP)
A court sketch made on January 10, 2019, shows Mehdi Nemmouche (C), accused of the terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014, during his trial at the Brussels Justice Palace. (Benoit Peyruco/AFP)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — A verdict is due Thursday in the trial of the accused Brussels Jewish museum killer, allegedly the first Syria jihad veteran to stage a terror attack in Europe.

Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, faces a life sentence if convicted of the “terrorist murders” in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, following his return from Syria’s battlefields.

Nemmouche is accused of killing the four victims in cold blood in less than 90 seconds, but he denies the accusation and told the court on Tuesday he was “tricked.”

This referred to arguments made by defense lawyers that Nemmouche was not to blame for the cold-blooded slaughter, but that he was caught up in some kind of plot targeting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

Mira and Emanuel Riva, an Israeli couple killed in the terror attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum on May 24, 2014. (Courtesy)

The argument involves Israeli couple Miriam and Emmanuel Riva, the first two of the four people killed in the attack.

A young Belgian employee, Alexandre Strens, and French volunteer Dominique Sabrier were also murdered.

The defense team has suggested that the Riva couple were intelligence agents murdered by an unknown man who had hunted them down.

The Riva family’s lawyers have furiously rejected the theory and said attempts to pass off the tourists as secret agents was “an absolute scandal.”

“Let’s stop the joking,” prosecutor Yves Moreau told the court on Tuesday, describing the arguments presented by the defense as “complete nonsense” against compelling evidence.

Lawyers Sebastien Courtoy (L) and Henri Laquay, defending Mehdi Nemmouche, speak together prior to a hearing regarding the terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, at the Brussels courthouse on January 15, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/Pool/AFP)

Miriam Riva worked for Mossad but, as an accountant, she was not operational, said the investigating judges who traveled to Israel during their investigation.

Yohan Benizri, the head of Belgium’s Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations, denounced what he called a “nauseating conspiracy theory.”

‘Deeply convinced’

Nemmouche is accused with Nacer Bendrer, 30, who is suspected of supplying the weapons for the attack.

The investigation showed that the two men had dozens of telephone conversations in April 2014, when Nemmouche allegedly prepared the attack.

People pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 25, 2014. (AFP/Georges Gobet)

Six days after the massacre, Nemmouche was arrested in the French city of Marseille in possession of a revolver and a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle.

At the trial, Bendrer admitted that the Nemmouche had asked him for a Kalashnikov when he came to Brussels in early April, but claimed he never delivered it.

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)

Among other personal effects, Nemmouche upon arrest carried a nylon jacket with gunshot residue, as well as a computer in which investigators found six videos claiming the attack with an off-camera voiceover thought to be Nemmouche.

In total, the prosecution said it had identified 23 pieces of evidence pointing to Nemmouche, who also physically resembles the shooter seen on the museum’s surveillance video.

“We are both deeply convinced that the two accused did indeed commit these acts,” one of the two prosecutors said in their indictment.

Weapons as pieces of evidence are displayed for a session in the trial regarding the terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum, at the courthouse in Brussels on January 18, 2019. Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche is accused of shooting four people dead in the 2014 attack at a Jewish museum in Brussels. Alleged accomplice Nacer Bendrer is suspected of having supplied Nemmouche the attack weapons. (Photo by Dirk WAEM / various sources / AFP)

The prosecutors say the attack was the first carried out in Europe by a jihadist returning from fighting in Syria.

The Brussels killings came 18 months before the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks which left 130 dead.

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