Brussels bombings accused win challenge over strip searches

  • World
  • Friday, 30 Dec 2022

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Six accused in connection to the 2016 Islamist suicide attack in Brussels that killed 32 people won a small victory on Thursday when a court ruled they should no longer be subject to daily strip searches before being transported from jail.

Mohamed Abrini, who prosecutors say fled Brussels airport after arriving there with two suicide bombers, complained on the first day of the trial that these transfers consisted of having to strip and genuflect for searches, being blindfolded and played loud "satanic music" through headphones on the journey.

Lawyers for him and five others filed a legal challenge, saying this had not happened during a parallel trial in Paris. Abrini and other accused have said they will not answer any questions while the practice continues.

The accused were to have begun testifying last week in a trial in which around 1,000 members of victims groups are seeking answers as to why they or their loved ones were targeted.

A Brussels court noted that the European Court of Human Rights prohibited degrading treatment, even in terrorist cases.

It said the strip searches appeared degrading in part because they were planned daily in a trial set to last months and also because they did not appear necessary to ensure security given all the other measures in place.

The court gave Belgian authorities eight days to adapt or face a penalty of 1,000 euros ($1,066) for each breach per accused up to a maximum of 50,000 euros per defendant.

The court did say that the accused could be transported wearing blindfolds. It noted that the defendants no longer had to listen to loud music. Each side can appeal the court's ruling.

The trial of the 10 men, one in absentia, is set to resume on Monday with testimony from police.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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