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Anti-terrorist Europe stops at the doors of the judges

(archives B2 *) Since the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, the European Ministers of Justice and the Interior have said it and repeated it in every tone; coordinating efforts in the fight against terrorism is “the” priority.

Barely a week ago, the Italian, Spanish, English, German and French ministers met in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) to repeat this leitmotif. But this desire seems to come up against certain resistance on the ground, judicial in particular. This is evidenced by the trial which just opened last week in Brussels against around twenty people directly or indirectly suspected of being part of the Al Qaeda movement in Europe.

Police cooperation works, between magistrates… more difficult

While the tracking down and arrest of the accused took place in a certain cooperation between the police services concerned – British, Dutch, Italian and French in particular – contact between magistrates seems less effective, even counterproductive. Some of the accused in the Belgian trial are not altar boys: Tarek Maaroufi – a former member of the GIA networks in Belgium – and Amor Sliti are suspected of having facilitated the recruitment and transit of Massoud's assassins to their target; Nizar Trabelsi, a former professional player for Fortuna Düsseldorf, is accused of having prepared an attack against American interests.

Part of the puzzle in France

But the other part of the puzzle, just as important, is in the hands of French magistrates: Djamel Beghal, a Franco-Algerian, formerly of the GIA suspected of being the leader of Trabelsi; Amal Halim, Trabelsi's pregnant partner, was arrested in Corsica in September 2001 and has since been placed under house arrest. Just last Friday (May 23), two people whose identities have not been revealed were arrested in Paris.

The other part in Belgium

However, despite several meetings, cooperation between anti-terrorist judges seems to be at a standstill. The Belgian investigating judge Christian de Valkeneer wanted to hear from Trabelsi's wife. Refusal from his French counterpart Jean-Louis Bruguière. “ We were ready to travel to Paris if necessary. », Explains a lawyer. New refusal. Result: on both sides of the border, each accused accuses the other. With complete impunity, lack of confrontation.

Judge Bruguière's obsession

When Judge Bruguière came to Belgium at the end of 2002, he only had one idea in mind, says a lawyer, “ obtain confirmation of a planned attack against the American embassy in Paris ". An objective that Beghal initially admitted. Confessions subsequently retracted. “ He wanted me to confirm the attack. In exchange for this, I could see my son”, meets Nizar Trabelsi in court on Friday (1).

The ego of certain magistrates

A string a little big and which aimed, above all, according to some observers, to repatriate the file to Paris. For Bruguière's own personal gain! “He is upset”, says a lawyer, speaks of the French judge. " Trabelsi made full confessions to the Belgian investigating judge which completely contradict » his hypothesis. In the office of the French investigating judge, people refuse to enter into the polemical game, hiding behind the famous “secret of the investigation”, with a little hint of spite however putting forward a childish “ we had started our investigation before the Belgians ". It remains to be hoped that one day the egos of certain magistrates will deflate. On that day, the fight against terrorism will undoubtedly have made good progress...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) The person concerned, in confessions recorded by the judge, and for the moment not retracted, has always affirmed the same thing: “ I was aiming for Kleine Brogel », a Belgian military base, near the Dutch border, where NATO strategic missiles and an American military detachment are stationed.

(*) Paper published in a first version in Ouest-France

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).