At the trial against the attacks on 22 March 2016, the telephone investigation after the double explosion in Zaventem is revealed today. The section Max Roosstraat is then cut into. Defendant Salah Abdeslam also reappeared in the morning in the glass box.
16.15: Second PC found in Max Roosstraat burned, tablet formatted
On 22 March 2016, the local police in the Montgomery zone reported to the federal judicial police in Brussels that waste collectors in Schaerbeek had found computer equipment that morning: a PC, a mobile phone and two SIM cards. According to their statements, they had collected the normal household waste in Max Roosstraat that day. The paper, and therefore the boxes of Brabantia waste bins noticed by an alert police officer, were not collected that day and were therefore left there.
The garbagemen had taken the computer equipment with them in a white bin on their morning rounds. But when they saw a large police presence on the street at 11am, they examined the contents, which contained jihadist material, and made the connection to the terror attacks. They turned to the first patrol they encountered, the Montgomery Police Zone Canine Team.
The garbage collectors driving around on the morning of March 22, 2016 in Rue Max Roos in Schaerbeek handed the police a laptop that turned out to contain a wealth of information. But there was also a tablet whose contents were formatted and another computer with missing keys that ended up in the waste incinerator.
The defendant Mohamed Abrini would say in his statements that there were actually two computers and that he would have used IBM’s computer. Also missing was a Samsung-branded tablet, which the waste collectors had found. An employee took it home for private use, it said. The man would have taken it to Poland and sold it there. That, too, “could not be recovered”, said Police Commissioner Kris Meert, the chief investigator of the investigation into the Brussels airport attacks.
A striking moment at the court hearing on Thursday afternoon was when the accused Salah Abdeslam began softly sarcastically clapping his hands after an intervention by investigating judge Sophie Grégoire. He had replied to a text that only contained the message “Hamza?” which was found through the cell phone of the brand Zizo that was found.
Grégoire claimed that the mobile phone may have been used by the residents of Max Roosstraat to contact their companions from Driesstraat in Vorst, after the police raid on 15 March 2016. ‘Hamza’ is the nickname of Sofien Ayari, who fled that day with Salah Abdeslam . The SMS was sent to a mobile phone that was found on the escape route to Abdeslam and Ayari in Vorst. Three calls were also made using the Zizo mobile phone to the number ‘Hamza’.
14.09: Two terrorist commandos tried in vain to contact each other on the morning of the attacks
On the morning of the attacks at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station, the two commandos tried to contact each other but failed. This is one of the results of the telephone investigation that was presented on Thursday at the assize process.
Chief investigator Kris Meert presented the extensive telephone investigation launched after the Brussels airport attack. Initially, it concerned the number that the perpetrators called the taxi driver with on the morning of the attacks. In addition to a contact with the taxi driver, it turned out that there were three outgoing calls that were picked up in Zaventem, at 7.31, 7.35 and 7.49, i.e. shortly before the attacks.
Further investigations showed that calls were made after the attack, but the mobile phone in Zaventem was no longer active at the time. The groups ‘Zaventem’ and ‘Maalbeek’ wanted to contact each other, this is how investigative judge Berta Bernardo-Mendez summarized. “But it did not succeed.”
At the end of the entire presentation, Commissioner Meert outlined some patterns that emerged from the telephone investigation. For example, the terrorists used disposable mobile phones, bought several at a time. They also always used prepaid cards. It was also striking that the numbers each had a specific purpose or were aimed at one contact.
The cell phones identified during the investigation could not be found, except for one.
It is also the case that only two of the three telephone numbers were identified that the terrorists in Zaventem used to coordinate the attacks, according to statements by Mohamed Abrini. “Either because it wasn’t activated or because we didn’t find it,” Meert said.
11.58: Investigators reconstruct the ‘man in the hat’ route via camera images
The police have been able to reconstruct the trajectory of Mohamed Abrini, first known as the ‘man in the hat’ after the attack at Zaventem airport through an analysis of camera images. It was a huge job that took days, explains lead researcher Kris Meert on Thursday morning.
The CCTV footage from the airport showed the ‘man with the hat’ leaving the airport after the second explosion at 7:59, and then walks past the Sheraton hotel to the parking lot, at 8:04, six minutes after the explosions, leave the airport area. At 8.11 he went via a roundabout towards the center of Zaventem, where he was last seen on the cameras at 8.13.
Later, the investigators caught sight of the man again through a witness who had seen him at a tire center on the Leuvensesteenweg in Zaventem. He didn’t have a camera, but the Land Rover garage across the street did, so you can see him heading towards Brussels at 8:49. His progress can then be followed via cameras from, among others, Quick and BNP Paribas Fortis. You can see how he crosses Meiserplein, after which he is last seen at 9.50 at the intersection of Brabançonnelaan and Notelaarsstraat.
On April 7, a new appeal was distributed through the media, asking for information about the man’s trajectory and the location of his white coat. It yielded nothing, but through the analysis of the video images in the area, the investigators were able to locate the man in Sint-Joost-ten-Node at 10:01. The very last picture is one on Kruidtuinlaan towards Rogierplein at 10.15.
As explained on Wednesday by investigating judge Patrick De Coster, the images showed how the man spoke on the phone. Based on these images, a telephone survey was carried out. Abrini later said during an interrogation that he only pretended to call so that no number from the phone investigation could be found on him.
Abrini was finally identified as the ‘man in the hat’ on 29 March and arrested on 8 April.
10.16: Smail Farisi speaks for the first time: “I was never a terrorist. I am bisexual”
Smail Farisi, the eldest of the Farisi brothers, spoke for the first time on Thursday morning. He says he wants to clear up the misconceptions about him, but it’s taking him too long to tell his story to the jury. “I can’t. I have agoraphobia,” says Farisi, sniffing. “I have to drink two pints in the morning to get here.” Eventually, both brothers left the assize room, but they reappeared after the break.
“Do you know what it takes of me to come here?” He said he was caught between his desire to prove he is not a terrorist on the one hand and his fear of leaving his safe environment on the other. “I have a choice between the plague and the cholera,” said Farisi. “The misunderstandings will be cleared up. I was never a terrorist. I am bisexual, so it is impossible,” Farisi continued his confused argument. “I’m going, ma’am. I don’t want it anymore,” he said at last.
Massart tried to make it clear that it is mandatory for an accused to be present at his assize trial and that it is also to his advantage to be able to answer for himself, even if Farisi is at large. “You have no choice, the process continues, sir,” the chairman attempted.
“I have never been a terrorist, never in my life. I have never wanted to kill anyone,” Farisi repeated. Massart called in the help of the Red Cross to help Farisi, but to no avail. When the session resumed after a short break at 10:45, he reappeared and sat down again.
Earlier, Ibrahim Farisi, the youngest of the Farisi brothers, had interrupted the discussion. He turned out to have an appointment with the OCMW social worker and wanted to leave too. In the end he was allowed. “Go to your appointment because it’s important that you stay integrated into society. Your attorney will represent you,” Massart said. He also reappeared at roll call later, at about 12.15 he again took his place in the assize room.
10:00: All seven accused arrive in the accused box
All seven accused arrived on Thursday for the start of the hearing of the assize process about the attacks on 22 March 2016. The accused Salah Abdeslam also arrived in the morning in the glass case of the accused.
Abdeslam was still absent from Monday to Wednesday with a medical certificate. The other six accused arrived in the box in the morning in recent days, although some of them left the room at the start of the court session.
Six of the seven accused remained in custody Thursday. Osama Krayem left the field as he has done throughout the process. The chairman asked him why he prefers the cell complex to his own trial, to which Krayem replied that he has nothing to say. At the request of the defense lawyers, five of the accused first confirmed that the police had searched them naked and that they should have bent their knees.
06.30: Telephony research and research Max Roosstraat on the menu Thursday
Since Tuesday afternoon, the investigating judges – with a brief interruption due to a testimony from a fire service – have started with the second part of their presentation. These are the first investigative actions after the attack in Zaventem. On Wednesday, the testimony of the taxi driver who informed the investigators about the hiding place in Max Roosstraat and an analysis of the video images from the airport were discussed.
Today, chief researcher Kris Meert continues the presentation with eighty slides about telephony research. After that, the safe house in Max Roosstraat will be thoroughly informed. Among other things, the investigating judges will discuss the neighborhood investigation, but also the garbage men who found the laptop – which turned out to be a goldmine for the researchers – and the intervention of the special units and the DOVO deminers will also be discussed. .
On 22 March 2016, two bombs exploded at Zaventem airport. There was also an explosion in Maalbeek metro station. The trial, which will last 9 months, started in Brussels on 12 September.