Trial of alleged extremist cell opens in Belgium

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By Catherine Hardy  with AFP
Trial of alleged extremist cell opens in Belgium
  • Trial opens amid tight security in Brussels
  • Seven due in court
  • Police still looking for nine others
  • Follows police raid in Verviers in January 2015

The trial opens on Monday in Belgium of a group of alleged Islamic extremists.

The hearing in Brussels is expected to last three weeks.

What are the details?

  • 7 suspects due in court
  • 4 already in custody
  • 9 at large
  • Charges include attempted murder and organising or being members of a terrorist organisation

What is the background?

Belgian special forces, supported by the French GIGN, raided a house in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers in January 2015.

The operation took place a few days after the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks in Paris.

The authorities in Brussels allege the group were planning an attack on the Belgian police.

Who are the suspects?

One of Monday’s accused, Marouane El Bali, is one of only three people who survived the Verviers raid.

The 26-year-old is accused of attempted murder for allegedly firing on police officers at the scene.

“He was not directly involved and has no connection with plans for any attacks,” his lawyer Sébastien Courtoy told reporters.

All those charged are of Belgian, Moroccan, Dutch or French nationality.

What does Abdelhamid Abaaoud have to do with Verviers?

Quite a lot, according to Belgian prosecutors.

It is alleged he was the coordinator of the group.

Abbaoud is said to have played a key role in the November attacks in Paris.

He died during a police raid in the St Denis neighbourhood in the French capital five days later.