Ex-hostages say suspect in Belgian shooting was their jailer
BRUSSELS (AP) — Two journalists who were taken hostage in Syria testified Thursday that a 33-year-old man who is now on trial for the fatal shootings of four people at a Jewish museum in Belgium definitely was one of their jailers.
French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche is charged with “terrorist murder” in the 2014 slayings of an Israeli couple and two employees at the Brussels Jewish Museum. The deaths crystalized fears that European extremists would use training or combat experience acquired in the Mideast to sow terror back home.
The French journalists who testified at Nemmouche’s trial, Nicolas Henin and Didier Francois, were held hostage in Syria for more than 10 months between 2013 and 2014. They told the Brussels criminal court that as their jailer, the defendant expressed hatred for Jews and Shiite Muslims and bragged of torturing his captives.
“He’s a sadistic man, full of hate, and particularly full of hate against Jews but also Shiites,” Henin told reporters outside court.
Both reporters said their eyes often met Nemmouche’s while they testified.
“We looked at each other several times. Mehdi Nemmouche had a defiant look of contempt on his face,” Henin said.
Asked by the presiding judge if he recognized the reporters, Nemmouche chose to exercise his right to remain silent, as he has done often throughout the trial.
“I am absolutely sure about who he is,” Francois said.
Defense lawyers have confirmed Nemmouche was in Syria but said it was irrelevant to the Belgium case. The trial is scheduled to run until March 1.
AP writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.