Released Brussels terrorism suspect proclaims innocence

A man reacts at a street memorial following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2016. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

A man reacts at a street memorial following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2016. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Faycal Cheffou, the man released after being charged with terrorist murder over last week’s bomb attacks in Brussels, declared his innocence on Tuesday, the Belga news agency reported his lawyer as saying.

The triple bomb attacks on Brussels’ international airport and the Maelbeek subway station have so far claimed at least 35 lives. Almost 100 people are still in hospital, more than half of whom remained in intensive care as of Monday.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attacks, perpetrated by three suicide bombers.

Since the attacks, Belgian police have been trying to track down a fourth suspect who dropped off an explosive device at the airport and then left.

Belgian media had reported that the man was Faycal Cheffou, who was taken into custody on Thursday. On Saturday, prosecutors said that a man they identified as Faycal C had been charged with terrorist murder, attempted terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist group.

But he was released again on Monday because the clues leading to his arrest were not backed up by evidence, the prosecution said.

He is the only person to have been charged so far in relation to the Brussels attacks. He was detained after a taxi driver picked him out of a photo array, local media reported.

Cheffou’s lawyer Olivier Martins said his client had declared that he was innocent, was opposed to the Islamic State and had no link with the terrorists involved in the attack, Belga reported Tuesday.

Martins had insisted on a verification of his client’s fingerprints, DNA and his physiognomy, Belga wrote. Video surveillance released of the fugitive suspect shows a man with a stockier build than the images of Cheffou disseminated in the media.

“The formal recognition by the taxi driver sowed the seeds of the judicial error, in my mind,” Martins said according to Belga.

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that Raghavendran Ganeshan, an Indian software engineer who went missing after the Brussels attacks, had been identified by Belgian authorities as one of the victims.

“A young life, full of hope and promise cut short by mindless violence. … Condolences to family of Raghavendran, who lost his life in Brussels,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter.

Ganeshan, 31, was working for Indian IT firm Infosys on a project in Brussels. He is survived by his wife and a one-month-old baby.

His death comes in addition to eight other foreign nationalities among those who lost their lives, in addition to Belgians. Other victims came from Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Britain, the Netherlands, the United States and China. - DPA/ANA



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