PARIS – A Belgian court on Thursday found 10 people guilty of providing aid to the Islamist terrorist group that killed 130 people in and around Paris in 2015. Sentences for some of the convicts ranged from 100 hours of community service to three years on probation.
The attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 were carried out by a network of Islamic State agents, several of whom lived in Belgium and used the country as a logistics venue to prepare for the massacre using a network of friends, acquaintances and criminals.
The verdict in Belgium came a day after 20 men were convicted in Paris, with sentences ranging from two years to life, for their roles in the same attacks – a series of shootings and suicide bombings in the Bataclan concert hall, in an area outside the national park. football stadium of France and on the terraces of cafes and restaurants in the center of Paris.
The attacks were the bloodiest in a series of terrorist attacks across Europe over a period of a few years – including in Brussels; in Nice, France; in Berlin; and in Barcelona, Spain.
The trial in Belgium, held in a court in Brussels for the past two months, involved underage accomplices accused of aiding the terrorist network that organized the attacks in Paris.
“The justice system intends to cast a wide net,” Olivier Mallinus, a spokesman for the Belgian court, said at the start of the trial. “The suspects are all suspected of having a connection with the perpetrators of the attacks.”
The defendants – 13 men and one woman, including two who were tried in absentia because they were presumed dead – were not tried in France because they were suspected of playing a minor role in the Paris plot and were charged less.
Belgian prosecutors accused them of concealing assailants who were on the run, facilitating communication with other members of the Islamic State and helping to conceal evidence that could incriminate the group.
Abid Aberkane, one of the prime suspects, was found guilty of harboring Salah Abdeslam – his cousin and the only surviving member of the team that carried out the Paris attacks – and one of his accomplices. mr. Aberkane was sentenced Thursday to a three-year suspended prison term, Mr. Mallinus.
Mr Abdeslam was sentenced to life in prison by a Paris court on Wednesday.
Virginie Taelman, Mr Aberkane’s attorney, said her client gave in to Mr Abdeslam’s demands to house him and an accomplice in March 2016. Both had just escaped a police raid on a shelter where they were staying in Brussels. Abdeslam had fled Paris after the attacks and was the target of an intense hunt.
Ms Taelman told Belgium’s Belga news agency that her client “felt pressured; he saw no alternatives, he did not know what to do.”
The Brussels court found four other defendants guilty and gave them sentences ranging from 100 hours of community service to 30 months in prison. Three others were also found guilty, but the court ruled that the convictions would not remain in their criminal records, meaning they would not be sentenced unless they committed another crime within a certain time frame. The two suspects who were presumed dead were also found guilty.
Four other defendants were acquitted by the court.
The Islamic State network that carried out the Paris attacks in November 2015 also struck Belgium a few months later with suicide bombings at Brussels airport and the metro in March 2016, killing 32 people, days after Abdeslam’s arrest.
Ten men charged with involvement in the Brussels attacks will be tried in October, including several who were convicted in Paris on Wednesday.
The attacks in Paris and Brussels exposed Europe’s failure to share intelligence, secure borders and tackle a dangerous mix of crime and radicalism in despondent immigrant neighborhoods preyed upon by Islamist extremists.
Molenbeek, a Brussels neighborhood of nearly 100,000 people that was home to key members of the terrorist network that planned the attacks, and many of Thursday’s defendants, became a symbol of those failures, though the city has since tried to change its image.