Prosecutors demand life sentence for Brussels Jewish museum killer

SENTENCING. In this file photo, Belgian federal prosecutors Bernard Michel (R) and Yves Moreau look on during a preliminary hearing at the courthouse in Brussels on December 20, 2018. AFP file photo

SENTENCING. In this file photo, Belgian federal prosecutors Bernard Michel (R) and Yves Moreau look on during a preliminary hearing at the courthouse in Brussels on December 20, 2018.

AFP file photo

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Prosecutors on Monday, March 11, demanded that a French jihadist found guilty of shooting dead 4 people in a terrorist attack at Brussels' Jewish museum in 2014 be jailed for life.

A jury last week convicted 33-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche of "terrorist murder" for the anti-Semitic gun rampage in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, a crime committed following his return from Syria's battlefields.

"What we ask, without the slightest hesitation, is that you sentence Mehdi Nemmouche to life in prison," prosecutor Yves Moreau told a Brussels court, condemning him as "cowardly" and a "psychopath."

After closing statements from prosecution and defense lawyers, the 12 jurors and 3 judges will retire again on Monday to consider sentence, with an announcement expected by the evening.

Nemmouche was found to have killed the 4 victims in less than 90 seconds, coldly shooting them with a handgun and a Kalashnikov rifle with what one paramedic who attended the scene called "surgical" precision.

Prosecutors also demanded a minimum 30-year prison sentence for Nacer Bendrer, 30, who was found guilty of being the co-author of the attack because he supplied the weapons Nemmouche used.

"Mr Nemmouche, you are just a coward, you kill people by shooting them from behind, you kill old women by shooting them with an assault rifle, you kill because it gives you pleasure to kill," Moreau said.

Urging the jury to take a firm line, Moreau said: "If you say that in Belgium one can be a terrorist without being punished very severely, then we must not be surprised to see people arrive in this country with bombs or assault rifles in their suitcases."

Prosecutors say the attack was the first carried out in Europe by a jihadist returning to the continent after fighting in Syria.

The Brussels killings came 18 months before the November 2015 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead.

Nemmouche denied the charges against him, with his lawyers alleging that the museum shooting was not the work of the Islamic State group but a possible "targeted execution" aimed at Mossad agents. – Rappler.com