Alleged Brussels museum killer was ‘sadistic’ Syria jailer

A masked Belgian police officer is seen during the trial of Mehdi Nemmouche and Nacer Bendrer, who are suspected of killing four people in a shooting at Brussels’ Jewish Museum in 2014. (Reuters)
Updated 07 February 2019
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Alleged Brussels museum killer was ‘sadistic’ Syria jailer

  • Former hostages came to Brussels to testify against Mehdi Nemmouche, who faces life in prison if convicted of four anti-Semitic murders in the Belgian capital
  • Francois and Henin as well as fellow French reporters Edouard Elias and Pierre Torres were kidnapped in June 2013 and held hostage by Daesh

BRUSSELS: Two French journalists on Thursday told a terrorism trial in Brussels that they had “no doubt” the accused Jewish museum killer is the man who imprisoned and tortured them in Syria.
The former hostages came to Brussels to testify against Mehdi Nemmouche, who faces life in prison if convicted of four anti-Semitic murders in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014.
Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman, smiled several times as he looked at the journalists during their testimony.
“I have absolutely no doubt about the fact that Mehdi Nemmouche who is present here was my jailer and torturer in Syria under the name of Abu Omar,” former hostage Nicolas Henin told the trial.
Henin described Nemmouche as a “sadistic, playful and narcissistic” man.
He said Nemmouche expressed “admiration” for Mohammed Merah in the year after he shot dead a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse in 2012.
Merah, a self-described Al-Qaeda sympathizer, also shot dead three French soldiers nearby three days earlier.
Journalist Didier Francois also said he “had no doubt” Nemmouche was the man who held him hostage.
“I came for three things: to say that we know him, how dangerous this person is and the risk he will repeat the crimes,” the 58-year-old Francois told the court.
Francois and Henin as well as fellow French reporters Edouard Elias and Pierre Torres were kidnapped in June 2013 and held hostage by Daesh in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo until April 2014.
Elias and Torres were not present Thursday, though they have also been listed as witnesses in the case.
Francois alleged that Nemmouche abused him, including hitting him with a club 40 times, while he was held at a hospital turned prison in Aleppo.
He added that the violence and “torture” meted out allegedly by Nemmouche mainly targeted Syrians and Iraqis also held there.
The prosecution and Jewish groups asked the journalists to give testimony against Nemmouche, who had been in Syria between January 2013 and February 2014.
Michele Hirsch, the lawyer for the Jewish groups, said their testimony was “extremely important” to show the judges and jury what motivated the alleged gunman.
It will also show how much his “idol” Merah influenced him, Hirsch added.
Nemmouche’s lawyers said the journalists’ testimony amounts to a “stunt” and a “trial within a trial” because their kidnapping is the subject of separate proceedings in France.
Also on trial in Brussels is Nacer Bendrer, a 30-year-old Frenchman accused of supplying Nemmouche with the weapons.
Bendrer also faces a life term if convicted of the same charge of “terrorist murder.”
Investigators said Nemmouche attacked the museum shortly after returning from Syria, where he had allegedly fought on behalf of extremist groups.
He allegedly killed an Israeli married couple, a young Belgian employee and a French volunteer.
Six days after the attack, Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French port city of Marseille. Bendrer was arrested in Marseille in December 2014.
The trial is due to end in late February or early March.
Some observers and lawyers hope the trial may yield more detail about Nemmouche’s alleged links with other extremists.
Henin told the court on Thursday that he also recognized among his jailers “Abu Idriss,” the alias of the Belgian-Moroccan Najim Laachraoui.
Investigators say Laachraoui made the bombs for the November 13, 2015, attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and wounded hundreds of others.
Laachraoui was one of the bombers who blew themselves up at Brussels airport and a city metro train on March 22, 2016, killing 32 people and wounding hundreds of others.
Daesh claimed responsibility for both attacks.


New Quebec law stresses migrants’ skills, thousands must reapply

Updated 45 min 8 sec ago
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New Quebec law stresses migrants’ skills, thousands must reapply

  • The law is similar to a proposed plan from US President Donald Trump that would shift his country’s visa system from family-based immigration toward bringing in more skilled workers
  • The law will attempt to more closely match the skills offered by would-be immigrants with the needs of the labor market in Quebec

MONTREAL: The Quebec provincial legislature on Sunday approved a controversial immigration bill that will replace a first-come, first-served standard for accepting migrants with one tied to an applicants’ skills.
The law is similar to a proposed plan from US President Donald Trump that would shift his country’s visa system from family-based immigration toward bringing in more skilled workers.
The law will attempt to more closely match the skills offered by would-be immigrants with the needs of the labor market in Quebec, Canada’s second most-populous province.
Under the new law, some 18,000 applications now on file will be shredded, affecting as many as 50,000 people, many of whom already live in the province.
The 18,000 existing applicants will have to restart the immigration process.
The provincial government promised to expedite processing of their new applications, saying qualified workers would have answers within six months rather than the current 36 months.
The 62-to-42 vote on the bill took place around 4 am (0800 GMT) at the end of a marathon session convened by the governing center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec, immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced on Twitter.
“We are modifying the immigration system in the public interest because we have to ensure we have a system which meets the needs of the labor market,” Jolin-Barrette told the National Assembly.
All three opposition parties opposed the measure, calling it “inhuman” and saying the government did not justify dropping the 18,000 pending applications.
“Honestly, I don’t think this bill will be seen positively in history,” Liberal Party MP Dominique Anglade said, according to the Montreal Gazette. “It’s the image of Quebec which gets tarnished.”
Premier Francois Legault’s government resorted to a special parliamentary procedure to limit debate over the proposal.
His party won power in October with a promise to slash by more than 20 percent the number of immigrants and refugees arriving each year in Quebec.
The assembly reconvened on Sunday and after sometimes-acrimonious debate passed a bill banning the wearing of religious symbols by public servants including police officers, judges, lawyers, prison guards and teachers.
However the new law will only apply to new recruits, with existing employees unaffected.
The proposal, also backed by Legault, puts the premier at odds with the multiculturalism advocated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.