The author escaped from a Tunisian prison in 2011

The author escaped from a Tunisian prison in 2011

The Belgian Public Prosecutor’s Office announced, on Sunday, October 22, that Abdel Salam Al-Aswad, the perpetrator of the attack that occurred in Brussels a week ago, escaped from prison in Tunisia in 2011.

The attack in Brussels on Monday 16 October is the terrible result of a “terrible mistake”. The Public Prosecution Office in the Belgian capital indicated, on Sunday, October 22, that the attacker who killed two Swedes, Abdel Salam Al-Aswad, had escaped from a Tunisian prison in 2011. He was the subject of an extradition request that remained forgotten.

According to the head of the Brussels Prosecutor’s Office, Tim De Wolf, Abdel Salam Al-Aswad “was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison in Tunisia in 2005, but escaped” in January 2011. According to the prosecutor, the man “was reported from Before the Tunisian authorities” on July 1, 2022 via Interpol.

At that time, the extradition request was only for a “prison escape”, which would not constitute a crime under Belgian law to pursue. But a “series of annexes” were sent a month and a half later to clarify Tunisia’s request. The Belgian authorities received the extradition request in August 2022, but it was not processed by the competent judge to whom it was referred two weeks later.

“Serious staffing shortages in the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office have played a role, however […] “This is not an excuse,” Tim De Wolf admitted on Sunday. According to him, the file, which was received in September 2022, was undoubtedly forgotten in the closet. He explains that “none of the colleagues involved remembers what happened to this particular file a year ago” and that ” “There is no trace of further processing.”

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The expulsion order was never implemented

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said on Saturday that the request submitted by the Tunisian authorities did not immediately benefit from legal treatment due to the lack of details in the first “red notice” issued by Interpol regarding Abdel Salam Al-Aswad. However, the error is considered “huge” and led on Friday evening to the resignation of Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborn.

The perpetrator of the attack’s request for asylum in Belgium was rejected, after other desperate attempts in Norway, Sweden and Italy. Since March 2021, an expulsion order has been issued against him and has never been implemented. In the face of the shortcomings revealed this weekend, the government announced reinforcements to the Brussels prosecutor’s office as well as to the federal police force in the Belgian capital.

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