Accused accomplice to Jewish museum murders denies charges

Brussels (AFP) –


A man on trial as the alleged accomplice to the Jewish museum murders in Brussels denied any role in the 2014 shootings and said he was not a jihadist.

Prosecutors told the court that Nacer Bendrer had been flagged years before the attack as a jihadist while in a French prison with Mehdi Nemmouche, the accused museum gunman.

"I'm not a terrorist, not a jihadist. I am innocent," Bendrer told the court. "Terrorists are sons of bitches."

Prosecutors said French prison authorities pointed out Bendrer "had been flagged since 2010 as a radicalised prisoner" in the southern French town of Salon-de-Provence.

Bendrer, suspected of having supplied Nemmouche the attack weapons, told the court he was "shocked and annoyed" when he learned of the shootings that killed four people on May 24, 2014.

Upon cross-examination, he admitted having travelled to the Belgian capital in April 2014 to meet Nemmouche, thinking the latter had a drugs-related deal in mind.

But Nemmouche, who is French like Bendrer, drove him to his apartment in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek to ask him for a Kalachnikov, he said.

In the following days, he said Nemmouche called him several times -- investigators say there were 46 phone calls in two weeks in April 2014 -- to ask him if he had been able to find weapons.

"I did not find (them). I really could not have cared less," Bendrer said. "It's like with a girl. When you don't answer, she understands."

During the trial on Tuesday, Nemmouche, 33, denied charges he was the gunman who killed an Israeli couple, a Belgian receptionist and a French volutneer at the museum.

He then refused for now to answer questions in the case, accusing the authorities of striking witnesses from the list who could help his defence.

Both Nemmouche and Bendrer face life in prison if convicted of charges of terrorist murder.

Investigators said Nemmouche attacked the museum shortly after returning from Syria, where he had fought on behalf of jihadist groups.

Six days after the attack, Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French port city of Marseille, where he arrived on a bus from Brussels in possession of a revolver and assault rifle of the types used in the attack.

Bendrer was arrested in Marseille in December 2014 in a home where police found several weapons.