Frenchman convicted of museum murders

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A jury found Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche guilty on Thursday of the “terrorist murders” of four people at Brussels’ Jewish museum, in the first case of a Syria extremist veteran to stage an attack in Europe.

Nemmouche, 33, now faces a life sentence for the anti-Semitic gun rampage in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, following his return from Syria’s battlefields.

Sentencing is now not expected to take place before next Monday, the court said.

Sporting a trimmed beard and wearing a navy blue sweater, Nemmouche showed no emotion and stared into space as the verdict was delivered.

The 12 jurors, accompanied by the presiding judge and two other magistrates, had deliberated for two and a half days in secret at a Brussels hotel before returning their verdict.

Courtroom sketch of Chairwoman of the court Laurence Massart and the accused Mehdi Nemmouche. – AFP

Nemmouche was found to have killed the four victims in cold blood in less than 90 seconds, but he denied the accusation telling the court he had been “tricked”.

Presiding judge Laurence Massart, who read out the jury’s verdict, said, “The existence of a trap was not presented with enough credibility and must be ruled out.”

Nemmouche’s lawyers had argued he was not to blame for the slaughter, but rather he had been caught up in some kind of plot targetting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The legal argument had centred around Israeli couple Miriam and Emmanuel Riva, the first two of the four people shot dead in the attack.