A judge could have prevented the Brussels attack

A document “escaped” from the Belgian judiciary could have prevented the killing of two Sweden fans in an attack in Brussels last week. This is what is revealed in the latest statements from Belgium. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a press conference on October 22 that the Belgian government “accepts its responsibility” for not extraditing Tunisian terrorist Abdesalem Lassoued. This is a step back compared to the initial restructuring achieved by Brussels in the immediate aftermath of the attack, when Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne condemned the “reluctance of some North African countries to take back their citizens whose asylum claims have been rejected.” It turned out to be an unwarranted statement in this case, as it turned out that Tunisia requested the extradition of its citizen in August 2022. However, this request remained unanswered by the Belgian judge who was supposed to deal with the matter.

Serious error

Tunisian authorities had asked Belgium to allow Lassoued to return because the man was considered a security risk in both countries. However, the competent Belgian judge did not follow the request. According to local media reports, only one of the 31 extradition requests received last year was not fulfilled: Lassoued’s request. A mistake considered “enormous”. The admission came during a press conference on October 20, announced by Van Quickenborne with little advance notice. Following the announcement, the head of the department resigned and Van Quickenborne’s former deputy chief of staff, Paul Van Tigchelt, was sworn in as his replacement. Brussels prosecutor Tim De Wolf blamed the lack of staff in his office for the failure to comply with the extradition request. He stated that this was not a “justification” but an element that “will help explain the course of events.”

disturbing questions

Belgium and the international community wonder whether it is really necessary to increase the number of judicial personnel in the face of such a small number of extradition requests, and whether this is due to superficiality, inadequacy and negligence. First of all, concerns remain about the existence of similar cases of dormant “terrorists” who should be deported, but whose documents are stored in the offices of distracted judicial authorities. In response to the attack, Belgium announced new security measures, appointing additional personnel to the Brussels prosecutor’s office, the federal judicial police and the railway police. Prime Minister De Croo also promised to strengthen the flow of information between the immigration office, police and judiciary. However, Le Soir newspaper condemned the lack of transparency of the Belgian government and its institutions. After the press conference of the head of government, the country’s most prestigious media saw that the doors were closed and the necessary questions asked by journalists about the attacker and the failure to deport him were not answered.

Risks underestimated

The Threat Analysis Coordination Board (Ocam) evaluated that Lassoued was not on the list of those who were radicalized. But the man had already received two convictions; one for violent behavior in Sweden, another for attempted murder in Tunisia and escaping from prison in 2011. The perpetrator of the attack applied for asylum in many European countries. In Norway in 2011, in Sweden the following year, in Italy in 2014. Abdesalem Lassoued, who was rejected every time, requested asylum in Belgium again at the end of 2019. According to Belgian Minister of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor, this request was rejected “for technical reasons”. At that point in 2021, the order for Tunisians to leave the region had not yet matured. Finally, in August 2022, an extradition request came from his own country.

Recycle quickly

It is unknown whether this information is known or not. Ocam said that he would primarily answer these questions before the Parliament and the government. The intelligence community also investigated the attacker’s suspicions of radicalization, but even they apparently did not take appropriate measures to stop the man. While the public wondered about these issues with concern, former justice minister Van Quickenborne quickly pulled himself together, in line with his surname, and announced that he would return to his post as mayor of Courtrai, which he temporarily left, on 23 October. Go to work for the federal government.

Source: Today IT