Europe

Brussels Jewish Museum attack: Fake gun left for lawyer

Belgian lawyer Vincent Lurquin speaks to reporters Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption "Those who want to frighten us will not succeed," lawyer Vincent Lurquin said after his office was burgled

The lawyer for an 81-year-old woman who survived a gun attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels has been burgled and left a threatening fake rifle, he says.

Vincent Lurquin's laptop and files were stolen from his Brussels office, and in their place he found a baseball bat and replica Kalashnikov.

The "targeted" burglary comes weeks into the ongoing trial of the suspected gunman, Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche.

Four people were killed in the anti-Semitic attack on the museum in 2014.

Mr Nemmouche denies charges of terrorist murder, and faces a life sentence if convicted.

He allegedly fought in a jihadist group in Syria's war before returning to Europe and carrying out the museum slaughter.

One of the files stolen from Mr Lurquin relates to the trial. The lawyer said he would not be intimidated by Wednesday's incident.

"We will continue to help [jurors] judge without hatred, without fear," he told Belgian media. "Those who want to frighten us will not succeed."

Prosecutors have opened an investigation for "burglary and threats using symbols".

What is the trial about?

On 24 May 2014, a lone gunman entered the lobby of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. He opened fire on those inside and fled within a couple of minutes.

Prosecutors say Mr Nemmouche carried out the attack using a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun. Two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian receptionist were killed.

He was arrested six days later in Marseille, in southern France, as he got off a bus. He was carrying two guns believed to have been used in the attack.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Weapons found on Mehdi Nemmouche have been presented as evidence in trial

Mr Lurquin's client, 81-year-old Chilean artist Clara Billeke Villalobos, has told the court she has remained "in a state of numbness" since the ordeal almost five years ago.

Another Frenchman, Nacer Bendrer, is also on trial, accused of providing the weapons used in the shooting.

Who is Mehdi Nemmouche?

Mr Nemmouche is of Franco-Algerian origin and from the northern French city of Roubaix, near the border with Belgium.

He was previously known to French authorities, having served five years in prison for robbery. He is said to have met Mr Bendrer while in prison.

Both have been described as "radicalised" prisoners.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A file photo of Mehdi Nemmouche released in 2014. He is yet to be photographed at trial

Mr Nemmouche travelled to Syria in 2013 for one year, during which time it is alleged he fought for a jihadist group in the country's civil war.

Investigators say that while there, he met Najim Laachraoui, who was a suicide bomber in the Brussels airport attack of March 2016, which killed 32 people.

Four French people held hostage in Syria allege that they were guarded by both Laachraoui and Mr Nemmouche during their captivity.

Links have also been drawn between Laachraoui's group and the one which carried out the Paris bombings of November 2015.

Mr Nemmouche was extradited to Belgium to face charges connected to the museum shooting, but may also face trial in France over the allegations he was involved in the French prisoner's captivity.

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