U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 - Belgium

In 2004, the Belgian Government continued anti-terrorist cooperation with European neighbors and the US Government on multiple levels. Belgium remained active in sharing information with the United States regarding terrorist threats to US interests or persons. In 2004, Belgium and the United States broadened cooperation under the Container Security Initiative – in place for the Port of Antwerp since 2003 – to include a second Belgian port, Zeebrugge. The two governments also agreed to place radiation detection equipment in the Port of Antwerp under the Department of Energy's Megaports program.

The Belgian judicial system applied the rule of law to terrorist conspirators in 2004, when it charged 10 suspects with criminal conspiracy related to possible terrorist activities. Eight of the defendants were found guilty, receiving sentences ranging from 11 months to five years. One of those convicted, Tarek Maaroufi, had been found guilty in the 2003 terrorist trial in Belgium and will serve a total of seven years in prison based on that previous conviction. A Belgian appellate court rejected appeals filed by nine of the 18 convicted in Belgium's 2003 terrorist trial, including Maaroufi and Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian national and al-Qa'ida associate. The court actually increased Maaroufi's sentence from six to seven years, while maintaining the ten-year sentence of Trabelsi and the shorter sentences of three other defendants. Another of the appellants, Mouloud Haiter, had his sentence increased from three to four years, while Abelhouaid Aberkan's sentence was reduced from three to two years. A final appellant, who cooperated with authorities in the initial trial, had his sentence suspended.

The Belgian authorities, in cooperation with Spanish, Italian, and Dutch investigators, continued criminal investigations of over 20 other suspects in Belgium for possible terrorism activities, including possible links to the March Madrid bombing and the November murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Belgian legislation adopted in 2003 to implement the EU's Framework Decision of June 2002 on combating terrorism and the European Arrest Warrant came into effect in December 2003 and January 2004, respectively.


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