A spokesperson for Freddy Thielemans, infamous socialist mayor of Brussels, explained that "The goal is not to create panic or to barricade the entire city, but we do not want to take any unnecessary risks..." Better that the entire nation be deprived of their inspiring New Year's Eve tradition, than 14 suspected islamist terrorists remain behind bars. All this due to "insufficient evidence".
A Belgian news outlet, "La Derniere Heure", did some investigating on the reasons for the arrests and quick release of the suspects, and were able to identify three incredible pieces of the puzzle, offering some important context to the legal rorschach test followed by Belgian authorities on this case... a context that had been missing in most of the coverage of the story to date.
What follows is my loose translation of their report, "The Terrorists' Plan":
It all started, a few months ago, with a plan to free [Nizar] Trabelsi. In the middle of the month of December, however, the deal changed. Investigators learned that the plan had evolved. No longer was it a question of a prison break but of an attack.A few days ago, the Belgian news site 7sur7 offered a short biography of Malika el-Aroud, one of the 14 suspects who were arrested and released due to "insufficient evidence".
"You know, it's always hard to predict if the threats will be carried out or not. If we act too soon, we risk not having enough evidence. If we act too late, we risk having dozens of deaths", confided one investigator.
Therefore Friday December 21st, anti-terror police led a series of searches and arrested 14 people. These were released the following day... because of insufficient evidence and also due no doubt to the suspects' explanations. The telephone conversations and emails.... it was all a joke. And yet...:One: in one of the conversations, the suspects talked of staking out the subway ["metro"] while making reference to the London bombings (four explosions striking the city's public transportation, leaving 56 dead and 700 wounded). They wanted to test the efficiency of the police by placing small bombs in the trash bins.
Two: Naima, the wife of Nizar Trabelsi, confirmed that her daughter, who is studying chemistry, was ready to make bombs.
Three: Naima's son clearly told his step-father, Trabelsi, that he wished to become a "kamikaze". [Their word; not clear by the report if that is a direct quote or not]
"Widow of Mahmoud assassin arrested":
Malika el-Aroud is 48 years old, a belgian of afghan origin, widow of Abdessater Dahmane, one of the two assassins who killed anti-taleban Norther Alliance warlord Ahmed Shah Massoud in a suicide bombing on Sept 9 2001.
She was acquitted in 2003 by the Brussels criminal court that was investigating a network channeling jihadi candidates for Afghanistan. She left for Switzerland at the side of her newest husband, she had been judged in June of this year in Geneva for supporting islamic terrorism on internet websites. She had received six months of a suspended sentence "for support of a terrorist organization and complicity in representations of violence."
According to the charges, her husband, Moez Garsallaoui, a 39 year-old Tunisian living in Switzerland, had created and maintained several different websites used by terrorist organizations, al-qaida among them. These sites mostly spread formulas for building explosives, according to the charges. His wife Malika, "thanks to her notoriety within the islamic world, offered a legitimacy to the criminal efforts of her husband", the case maintained.