The trial of the jihadist attacks of March 2016 in Brussels, where Salah Abdeslam must appear in particular, will resume on November 30 with the composition of the jury of the Assize Court, announced Friday the Court of Appeal.

After this one-day hearing, the proceedings will begin on December 5, the court said in a statement.

The trial, eagerly awaited in Belgium, is the largest ever organized before an assize court in this country.

The attacks of March 22, 2016, the deadliest in the history of Belgium, left 32 dead and more than 340 injured at the airport and in a metro station in the Belgian capital.

This trial concerns nine defendants (a tenth will be tried in his absence because he is presumed dead in Syria), nearly a thousand civil parties, while around 370 witnesses are expected to testify.

The hearing could last until June 2023. Supposed to open next week, the trial had to be delayed due to a defendant's box deemed not to comply with European law.

A “box” which posed a problem, according to the defense

The infrastructure - a box compartmentalized into individual glass cells - had raised an outcry among defense lawyers during a procedural hearing on September 12.

Four days later, on September 16, the president of the court Laurence Massart had largely followed their arguments and ordered the dismantling of this unprecedented box in an assize court in Belgium.

Laurence Massart had judged the equipment to be detrimental to the rights of the defence, considering in particular that it violated the principle of “fair trial” defended by the European Convention on Human Rights.

These closed cells severely limited communication between the defendants and their lawyers.

The Ministry of Justice, forced to dismantle it and provide a new box, announced Thursday that the latter would be ready for November 14, suggesting a resumption of the trial quickly after this date.

The court preferred to allow itself an additional period of two weeks, to respect the legal deadlines for summoning the parties and the jurors.

According to a spokesperson for the court, some 800 people must be reconvened in order to constitute the jury (12 regular jurors and 24 alternates).

Claimed by the Islamic State organization, the attacks in Brussels were perpetrated by the jihadist cell already at the origin of those of November 13, 2015 in France (130 dead in Paris and Saint-Denis).

Six of the ten defendants - including Salah Abdeslam and Mohamed Abrini - were already involved in the river trial which ended at the end of June before the special assize court in Paris.


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