The Frenchman on trial accused of murdering four people at the Jewish museum of Belgium denied he was the gunman and alleged the court had robbed him of defence witnesses.
Asked by the judge whether he accepted the evidence linking him to the Brussels attack, Mehdi Nemmouche said: “No.”
But he admitted he had been arrested six days later in possession of firearms — a revolver and a Kalashnikov — of the type used in the May 14, 2014, shooting spree.
Nevertheless, he complained that the judge had rejected testimony from witnesses who “could have given a reading of the case at the polar opposite of the federal prosecutors.”
And he told jurors he would not speak further to address the charges, leaving his defence to his legal team.
In laying out their strategy, his lawyers said Nemmouche was innocent and one suggested he was a victim of a murky Israeli plot — a tactic that Jewish groups had warned against.
“Mehdi Nemmouche is not the killer,” lawyer Henri Laquay told the Brussels criminal court. “He did not squeeze the trigger.” Laquay urged the 12-person jury to acquit Nemmouche.
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.
Defense lawyer Virginie Taelman alleged that an image taken from surveillance footage had been manipulated and that this, plus the attitude of prosecutors, could suggest the murders were “not an attack by the Islamic State but a targeted execution by Mossad agents,” referring to Israel’s intelligence service.
Jewish community leaders attending the trial earlier voiced fear the defence will deflect attention from the antisemitic nature of the attacks.
Firing a pistol and then an assault rifle, investigators say, the gunman killed two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian receptionist at the Jewish Museum.
Adrien Masset, a lawyer representing the Jewish Museum, said the defense team’s plans to argue the attack was an Israeli plot “absolutely did not hold water.”