French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche was on Thursday convicted of “terrorist murder” for shooting dead four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium after coming back from Syria in 2014, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman said.
Sentencing after the two-month-long, Brussels jury court trial, which underlined the threat posed by European Muslim militants returning home after fighting in Syria’s war, is to be announced at a later date.
Nemmouche, 33, remained silent in the dock as former hostages of Islamic State group militants, as well as victims of the May 2014 museum attack testified against him.
However, on Tuesday he briefly took the stand to say that he had been “tricked.”
Lawyers for the victims praised Belgian prosecutors for building a rigorous case against Nemmouche that stood up against accusations by the defense that he had been framed in a plot to kill two agents of Israel’s Mossad external security service.
“It’s a victory for justice,” said David Ramet, a lawyer for the two daughters of Myriam and Emmanuel Riva, an Israeli tourist couple killed in the shooting.
The eldest of the two, Shiva, earlier testified in court that the “tragedy would pursue them all their lives,” public broadcaster RTBF reported.
Two men employed at the museum, Dominique Sabrier and Alexandre Strens, also died in the shooting attack.
During the trial, assertions by Nemmouche’s lawyer that video footage of the shooting was faked and that his client never pulled the trigger outraged the victims’ families and survivors.
European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor on Thursday said that “the use of reprehensible tactics and conspiracy theories of the defense lawyers” was a disgrace.
The attack in May 2014 was the first staged by a Western European who had fought in the ranks of Muslim militant factions in the Syrian Civil War, prosecutors said.
A lawyer for Nemmouche said that he would respect the 12-person jury’s decision and not appeal the verdict.
Another French citizen, Nacer Bendrer, was found guilty of providing the weapon used in the shooting.
The two met and were radicalized in jail, investigators said.
Prosecutors told the court that Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French city of Marseille less than a week after the shooting carrying a Kalashnikov of the kind used in the crime.
The jury last month also heard testimony from two French journalists who were held hostage by the Islamic State in Syria and identified Nemmouche as one of their captors.
The journalists described him as deeply anti-Semitic, sadistic and full of hatred.
Nemmouche faces separate charges in France for his role in keeping the reporters in captivity.
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