BRUSSELS — A French citizen suspected of working for the Islamic State group in Syria was convicted Thursday of murdering four people at a Jewish museum in Belgium’s capital, an attack that crystalized fears in Europe that foreign fighters would return to sow
terror at home.
Reading out the jury verdict at the Brussels criminal court, presiding Judge Laurence Massart, said, “Mehdi Nemmouche is guilty of committing four terrorist murders,” in the slayings of an Israeli couple and two museum employees on
May 24, 2014.
Nemmouche, 33, sat impassively in court while the verdict was read, three police officers wearing ski masks surrounding him. He faces up to 30 years in prison at a sentencing hearing set for Monday.
An alleged accomplice, Nacer Bendrer, was found “guilty beyond all reasonable doubt” of supplying the revolver and assault rifle used in the killings. Bendrer, 30, sat with his head bowed during the reading
of the verdicts.
Defense lawyers had argued the killings were part of a conspiracy and Nemmouche was set up by security officials — perhaps from Iran or Lebanon — who shot the couple because the Israelis might have been members of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.
Security camera video from the Jewish museum’s entrance showed a man wearing a baseball cap and armed with a revolver shoot the man and woman in the back of the heads at point-blank range.
He then walked down a corridor and fired into offices at the two other victims, before pulling out an assault rifle to spray the area. It was over in 82 seconds and the killer strode away without looking back.
Nemmouche, who prosecutors claim fought alongside Islamic State extremists in Syria, was captured in France almost a week later in possession of the weapons used
in the killing.
French authorities also allege he was one of the jihadists who kept four French journalists hostage until they were freed in April 2014 in Syria. Nemmouche still must face charges in France linked to the hostage-taking.