Lawyer finds gun 'threat' in Jewish museum murder trial

Lawyer for survivor of Brussels Jewish museum attack says files stolen, fake rifle placed in his office. "We will not yield to blackmail."


Brussels Square
Brussels Square

A lawyer for a survivor of the Brussels Jewish museum attack said Wednesday he found a fake rifle in his office after a burglary, denouncing this as a threat to the trial.

Lawyer Vincent Lurquin reported that his laptop and two files -- including one dealing with the deadly anti-Semitic gun attack in May 2014 -- were missing from his Brussels office.

"The plaintiff also found on his desk a baseball bat and a replica of a Kalashnikov-type weapon," the federal prosecutor's office said.

"Advised of the facts, the Brussels prosecutors' office immediately opened an investigation for burglary and threats using symbols."

Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, is on trial in Brussels charged with shooting dead four people at the museum with a pistol and a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Lurquin, lawyer for survivor Clara Billeke Villalobos, an 81-year-old Chilean artist, said he would try not to let the burglary disrupt the three-week-old trial.

"We will continue the trial and I hope that the jury will understand this," Lurquin said on RTBF television.

"We will continue to help them judge without hatred, without fear. With the threats that may be sent to us, we will not yield to blackmail," the lawyer said.

"This is also part of the job of being a lawyer," Lurquin added.

RTBF has reported that witnesses had earlier expressed fear of coming to testify.

Lurquin's client Villalobos has said that her life was upended by the May 24, 2014, attack on the museum, which left two Israeli visitors, a Belgian museum employee and a French volunteer dead.

During testimony on January 18, Villalobos said she remained "in a state of numbness", more than four years after the events.

Both Nemmouche and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who allegedly supplied the weapons, face life in prison if convicted of charges of terrorist murder.

Investigators say Nemmouche was the gunman and attacked shortly after returning from Syria, where he had allegedly fought on behalf of jihadist groups.

Both Nemmouche and Bendrer deny the charges and the high-profile trial could last until the start of March.