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Belgium kicks off country's largest-ever trial for 2016 terror attacks in Brussels

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By Gregoire Lory
Security officer patrols during the preliminary hearing, for the Brussels attacks that took place on March 22, 2016, at the Justitia building in Brussels
Security officer patrols during the preliminary hearing, for the Brussels attacks that took place on March 22, 2016, at the Justitia building in Brussels   -   Copyright  Olivier Matthys/The Associated Press

A Brussels court started proceedings on the 2016 terror attacks in the Belgian capital, with a preliminary hearing taking place on Monday.

It is the first stage of a lengthy trial, expected to last for eight months, and the largest of its kind to take place in Belgium. 

On 22 March 2016, three attackers blew themselves up at Brussels-Zaventem airport and in the Maelbeek metro station in the European Quarter. The attacks killed 32 people and injured over 340. 

The official proceedings will begin in October, but this first meeting is meant to set the procedure and the course of events and allow the defendants to be presented to the judges.

Desire for reparations, but no illusions

Six years ago, Louis Vanardois lost his girlfriend, My Altegrim, a thirty-year-old Swedish illustrator, in the Maelbeek metro station. He wants reparations but is under no illusions.

"We saw in the Paris attacks that [the attackers] didn't really seem to go back on their positions and not ask for forgiveness or anything. And in any case, if they asked me personally for forgiveness, I don't think I would be able to grant it," he told Euronews.

Hospitalised twice, a victim of anxiety attacks, Vanardois does not intend to go to the trial every day because he is afraid of awakening traumas.

"I'm worried, yes, because just by the crowd alone, it will be intimidating. And I don't know how I'm going to cope emotionally with the sight of people who took part in this series of attacks," he said.

Vanardois has many questions about the day of 22 March, but he wonders if he will be able to talk to the defendants.

"I'm apprehensive because I don't know how I'm going to relate to them," he said. 

"I don't know if I will want to talk to them personally or if, on the contrary, no words will come to me or if my anger will always be present. I don't know." 

"Maybe I'm afraid that my anger will disappear all of a sudden, or maybe it will be too much," Vanardois lamented.

There are nearly a thousand civil parties in this trial who are seeking justice.