BRUSSELS - The World Jewish Congress welcomes a Belgian criminal court’s conviction of Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche for the terror attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum in 2014, which resulted in the deaths of four people. Nemmouche’s accomplice, Nacer Bendrer, was also found guilty of aiding the attacker.
In an attack that lasted less than 90 seconds, Nemmouche murdered Israeli couple Miriam and Emmanuel Riva, along with a young Belgian employee of the museum, Alexandre Strens, and French volunteer Dominique Sabrier.
Over the course of the trial, Nemmouche’s defense lawyers argued that he had been caught up in a plot targeting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad – arguments which were denounced by the President of WJC’s Belgian affiliate CCOJB and WJC Vice President Yohan Benizri as “a nauseating conspiracy theory.”
In response to the verdict, WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer said: “On behalf of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and our affiliated communities in more than 100 countries, I welcome the Belgian court’s verdict which at last brings a semblance of justice to the loved ones of those who were so brutally murdered on May 24, 2014, and to the Jewish community as a whole.”
“This brutal attack took place at a time of rising antisemitism in Europe. Sadly, antisemitism has continued to grow in the years since, and while the security precautions taken by the Belgian authorities are to be welcomed, let us be under no illusion that we have rid ourselves of danger. We must vigilant in both Belgium and across the European Union to ensure that such barbarity does not occur again,” Singer said.
Singer added: “It is regrettable that this trial was replete with unbelievable conspiracy theories and demonization of Israel on the part of certain attorneys and the suspect, and we can only hope that the judges have recognized the very dangerous nature of allowing these tropes to enter a court of law.”
Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB and vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, stated: “May the name of this terrorist be forgotten, and may we only remember the verdict and the resilience of our democratic institutions, our community, and the Belgian population.”
“I can only strongly condemn and regret that some Belgian lawyers, which my education prevent me from accurately describing, attempted to shake our values by bringing disgraceful theories in front of our highest criminal court. The same lawyers will continue to criticize our justice system because they lost so dramatically. But nothing should derail us from our relentless fight for our values.”
In aftermath of the attack in 2014, the WJC organized a solidarity mission comprising 38 Jewish leaders and led by WJC President Lauder who met with the then Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and senior Belgian cabinet members to discuss measures to combat antisemitism. Today, the Jewish Museum and other Jewish institutions continue to be guarded by the Belgian military.