SHARIA- 4 -BELGIUM ON TRIAL IN BRUSSELS
Only 9 of those charged were present in court in Antwerpen on Monday, including the alleged ringleader Fouad Belkacem. 32 (pic). The other 8 defendants present in court were ; 1. Jejoen Bontinck; 2. Hakim Elouassaki; 3. Elias Taketloune; 4. Walid L., 23; 5. Mohamed E.Y., 30; 6. Michaël Delefortrie, 25; 7. El Ouazna N., 51; 8. Bilal E.M. –
According to his lawyer was later held prisoner by Islamic State along with James Foley, the U.S. journalist whom the group beheaded in August 2014, He escaped, returned to Belgium and is cooperating with Antwerp prosecutors after spending two months in jail and providing information about James Foley’s possible location before his murder, they say.
2. Hakim Elouassaki, 22, the younger brother of Houssein Elouassaki, from the Brussels suburb of Vilvoorde, who Belgian authorities allege fought with Jabhat al-Nusra and executed a civilian prisoner in Syria. Hakin Elouassaki’s lawyer doesn’t deny his client fought in Syria but has denied he executed a prisoner.
3. Elias Taketloune, 24, from Vilvoorde who was imprisoned after returning from Syria. The others were allegedly still in Syria, with many possibly dead in the fighting there. Prosecutors said the accused belonged to Sharia4Belgium, a group disbanded in 2012.
* OTHER DEFENDANTS –
* Nabil Kasmi, 22, who left for Syria’s battlefields in 05/2012. Considered to be the first jihadist recruited by Sharia4Belgium dispatched from Antwerp. In 11/2011 Nabil Kasmi traveled to Lebanon to meet with Omar Bakri Muhammad.
* Hicham Chaib, 32, a native of a town near Antwerp, has climbed the ranks of I.S.I.S, the Antwerp police official says. Haicham Chaib was featured in a “Greetings” video released online last month by Islamic State on Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The other defendants were identified as Feisal Yamoun. 31, Said M’Nari, and Brahim Bali, 28.
Hicham Chaib, a native of a town near Antwerp, has climbed the ranks of I.S.I.S, the Antwerp police official says. Haicham Chaib was featured in a “Greetings” video released online last month by Islamic State on Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Members, the court heard, approached young men and a few teenage women in Antwerpen and Vilvoorde, north of Brussels, to invite them to their centre in Antwerpen where they were indoctrinated and readied for their trip to Syria. “The clear aim was to prepare them for armed combat,” Luc Festraets, a prosecutor, told the court.
“Belkacem’s words can only be interpreted as a call to violence and jihad,” said Ann Fransen, another prosecutor in the case.
Once in Syria, the recruits joined organisations such as the Jabhat al- Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and groups which now aligned with or part of the I.S.I.S group, prosecutors said.
Quoting from tapped telephone conversations and statements by one of the suspects, who will be a key prosecution witness, Ann Fransen said the accused were deeply entwined with the groups inspired by fighting in Syria.
Investigators said Fouad Belkacem never travelled to Syria, unlike most of the members of the group, but he was the “catalyst” who prompted many to go and fight there. The belgian authorities believe Fouad Belkacem and Sharia4belgium are behind 80% of about over 300 Belgian Muslim volunteers who went to fight in Syria (see – Western-Jihadists).
On 02/11/2015 Fouad Belkacem was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. The other 45 members were given sentences, some suspended, ranging between three and 15 years. Only seven of the accused were at the court for the ruling. Most others are said to still be in Syria, and some may already be dead.
Jejoen Bontinck, got a suspended sentence of 40 months. He made headlines after his father travelled to Syria and brought him home. Jejoen Bontinck later appeared in the trial as a prosecution witness.
21-year-old convert Brian De Mulder (pic-L), one of the defendants, is still believed to be fighting, or dead, in Syria. Brian De Mulder was killed in a Russian airstrike some time in 11/2015.
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