Two French journalists who were held by Islamic State militants in Syria have given evidence against a man accused of murdering four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014.
“I’ve absolutely no doubt that Mehdi Nemmouche, who is here now, was my jailer and torturer in Syria. I knew him as Abou Omar,” said Nicolas Hénin.
Ex-captive Didier François agreed.
The defendant, 33, denies murdering an Israeli couple, a local worker and a French volunteer at the museum.
He allegedly travelled to Syria in January 2013 and faces a separate trial in France for his alleged role as an Islamic State jailer.
What the witnesses said
The trial began last month, but it heard for the first time on Thursday from Nicolas Hénin and Didier François, who were held by IS militants in a hospital in Aleppo in June 2013 and freed in April 2014, a month before the Jewish Museum attack.
Of the 23 foreign hostages held by IS, eight were in Aleppo, and Mr François told the court that their captors were all part of a structure, and were involved in organising the Paris and Brussels bombings in November 2015 and March 2016.
He said Paris bomb-maker and Brussels airport suicide bomber Najim Laachraoui was one of the guards.
Mr Hénin told the court that Mehdi Nemmouche was sadistic because he was full of hatred – “an anti-Semitic hatred”. He said Nemmouche admired the Toulouse jihadist killer Mohamed Merah and loathed Shia Muslims.
“We were taken out of our cell for interrogation then put back in a cell next door to the torture room. He was wearing combat dress and we came up against him on several occasions,” he said.
Mr François said he had no doubt that Mehdi Nemmouche had tortured Syrian prisoners. “We heard his voice, we recognised his voice,” he said.
His fellow ex-captive said that the suspect would hit them during their blindfolded visits to the toilets.
Asked by the federal prosecutor if he had ever met the two journalists, the defendant refused to answer. The trial continues.
What happened in Brussels in May 2014?
On 24 May 2014, a lone gunman entered the lobby of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. He opened fire on those inside and fled within a couple of minutes. Four people died in the attack in the Sablon area of the city:
- Emmanuel Riva, 54, and Myriam Riva, 53, from Tel Aviv, Israel
- Dominique Sabrier, 66, French volunteer at museum
- Alexandre Strens, 25, worked at museum’s reception
French-born Medhi Nemmouche was arrested carrying two guns six days later in Marseille in southern France.