Will Najim Laachraoui Get The Death Penalty? Belgium Is No Fan Of Capital Punishment
Currently, Belgian police are furiously searching for Brussels airport bombing suspect and possible ISIS bomb-maker Najim Laachraoui. A photo of the man taken from CCTV airport footage was released to the public following the airport and metro bombings which killed 34 people and injured hundreds on Tuesday. He can be spotted on the far right side of the photo wearing a hat. He is still at large. Upon arrest, however, his sentence will be harsh if interrogations reveal the allegations against him are true.
The former electromechanical engineering student, who was born in Morocco and raised in Brussels, is believed to have concocted the bombs used in the Paris attacks of November 2015 and in the most recent Brussels bombings. According to the Belgian federal prosecutor's office, Laachraoui travelled to Syria in 2013, where ISIS may have taught him how to make bombs that would later be used in suicide bomber belts. He also has strong ties with the men who are believed to have planned the Paris attacks. Two months prior to the tragedy in France's capital, Laachraoui reportedly commuted to Hungary alongside Paris attack conspirators and ISIS affiliates Mohamed Belkaid and Salah Abdeslam.
Because he had been known by police for quite some time before both attacks took place, the 24-year-old was only able to slip past borders because of his fake identification. Before three bombs shook Brussels' major transportation hubs, Laachraoui was identified by Belgian police as a wanted man after they found his DNA in two ISIS members' apartments on Monday. His fake identification allowed him to narrowly escape a raid conducted at the apartment of alleged metro station bomber Khalid el-Bakraoui on Friday — just four days before the Brussels bombings.
That raid also led to the arrest of suspected Paris attack mastermind Salah Abdeslam and the death of Paris terrorist Mohamed Belkaid. Additionally, The Independent reported that an international arrest warrant was pinned to him in 2014.
Since the majority of the Paris attackers died in the midst of the atrocity, there is little precedent for predicting Laachraoui's sentence if he is located and arrested. However, it is fairly certain that officials will not force the death penalty upon him if he is tried in Belgium's courts: In 1996, the country abolished capital punishment.
Though it hasn't been forced upon prisoners, some are allowed to opt out of jail time and receive euthanasia, as seen with a Belgian murderer and rapist who claimed he could not face prison in January 2015. Considering the widespread terror evoked by the attacks, however, this will not likely offered as an option for Laachraoui.