Nizar Trabelsi will be judged in the United States

  • The Tunisian’s extradition is being contested by his defense. He has already been sentenced to 10 years in Belgium.
  • He was one of the kingdom’s most closely watched prisoners.

As soon as Nizar Trabelsi realized that his convoy was headed towards Zaventem airport, he knew he could say goodbye to Belgium. He was taken from his high-security cell in Bruges prison yesterday morning. He was assured by those accompanying him that “we’re taking you to Ittre,” the prison he was transferred from about a month ago,

the day before his wedding. Undoubtedly, Trabelsi thought his return to Ittre would finally let him celebrate his marriage with Oum Maryam, a Schaerbeek mother of 5 with whom he planned to have even more children.


He was wrong. The Ittre story was to keep his suspicions at bay. At the end of the road he was told, “You are being extradited to the United States!”


Nizar Ben Abdelazziz Trabelsi, 43 years old, dreamed of a career as a professional soccer player. In 1988, he tried out for Liège Standard, but he was not hired. The Tunisian then traveled to Germany. His addiction to cocaine ended his career in 1995. As he admitted during his trial, he then went to Afghanistan, and met Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. He was arrested at Uccle in 2001, and he is an illegal resident.


September 14, 2001 the world was in the grips of terror regarding Al Qaeda, who three days earlier, had directed the attacks on the World Trade Center. Intelligence services were working overtime. It was quickly determined that the Tunisian was linked to Bin Laden. A search discovered 100 kilos of sulfur and 60 liters of acetone: bomb components. After first having said that he purchased the acetone to treat his acne, he talked about a planned attack on the United States embassy in Paris.


Then, he revealed his real mission in Belgium: a truck bomb attack against the Kleine-Brogel air base: “I wanted to kill American soldiers!” – the high-security base houses American military units and nuclear weapons.


September 30, 2003, Trabelsi was sentenced to ten years in prison by the Brussels criminal court for “participating in a criminal conspiracy whose aim was committing an attack, dealing in forged papers, supporting subversive activities, illegal residency, and participating in a private militia.”


In prison he proclaimed his ideology. He conducted his jihad from behind bars. He is considered one of the kingdom’s most difficult prisoners because of his Islamist activities and proselytizing of fellow inmates.


A psychiatrist’s report recommended isolating him from “a situation that supports his hysteria in the role of angel of death.”


In 2007 the United States demanded his extradition. Belgium received guarantees that he would not be eligible for the death penalty, and that he would be judged by a civil court (in Washington) and not by a military tribunal.


When this announcement was made, Trabelsi began proceedings to avoid extradition. He tried all of Belgium’s jurisdictions and the European Human Rights Court. Nothing could be done. On November 23, 2011, former justice minister Stefan De Clerk signed his final ministerial order authorizing Trabelsi’s extradition.


Justice minister Annemie Turtelboom acted on the decision. At the same time, the CGRS (Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons) gave a negative opinion on Trabelsi’s request for recognition as a political refugee. His fiancée, Oum, never married him. She was considered to be the link between Trabelsi and Brussels’ radical Islamist scene. She had been introduced there, like others before her, by Malika El Aroud, the wife of the commander Massoud’s assassin, sentenced to 8 years in prison in Brussels.




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