A Belgian court convicted six men of murder and two others of terrorism charges on Tuesday after the country’s largest ever trial involving the 2016 Islamist bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people.
The six, of 10 facing charges, were found guilty of murder and attempted murder in a terrorist context for their part in the twin bombings at Brussels airport and third bomb on the city’s metro on March 22, 2016.
They and two others were also convicted of participating in the activities of a terrorism organisation. Two men were acquitted.
Separate hearings to determine sentences will be held in September.
The trial revived painful memories for the roughly 1,000 victims registered to attend. They include those who lost loved ones or were injured, and witnesses to the bombings.
“Yes, this will help turn a page,” said Pierre Bastin, who lost his daughter Aline in the metro bombing, when asked if the verdicts would help him deal with his grief.
Pierre-Yves Desaive, who was close to the airport bombs, thanked the jury that sat through seven months of often harrowing testimony.
“They have done their duty to society and now it’s up to society to help them,” he said.
Among those convicted was Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the trial over the Paris attacks that killed 130 people. On the run after fleeing the French capital, he was seized in Brussels four days before the Belgian attacks.
Others found guilty included Mohamed Abrini, who went to Brussels Airport with two suicide bombers but fled without detonating his suitcase of explosives, and Swedish Osama Krayem, accused of planning to be a second bomber on Brussels’ metro.
Oussama Atar, seen as the group’s leader and presumed to have been killed in Syria, was also convicted.
The four are among six accused already convicted in France over the November 2015 Paris attacks. Unlike the French trial which concluded last year with a decision by a panel of judges, the Brussels case was settled by a jury.
The 12 jury members reached a decision on Monday after two weeks in isolation at the end of a seven-month trial at the former headquarters of NATO specially set up to host the Brussels bombings trial.
Presiding Judge Laurence Massart rattled through the list of nearly 300 separate charges in minutes on Tuesday evening and then spent five hours outlining the jury’s reasoning.
The jury members sat facing the accused, seven of them seated behind glass screens and guarded by police officers in balaclavas.