Two men charged over links to Brussels football shooting

Suspects accused of involvement in terrorist conspiracy after Swedish fans were killed

Investigators at the scene of the shooting in Brussels where two Swedish football fans were killed on October 16. EPA
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Two men have been charged in France over suspected links to a Brussels shooting in which two Swedish football fans were killed.

A Paris judge has accused the two suspects of forming a terrorist group and complicity in murder linked to a terrorist plot.

They were detained after Abdesalem Lassoued, a 45-year-old Tunisian, shot and killed the fans before a match between Belgium and Sweden on October 16. The gunman was shot dead by police.

French prosecutors opened a formal investigation into a suspected criminal terrorist conspiracy after receiving information on the case from the Belgian judiciary.

The investigation into the two suspects, who live in the Paris region, “is continuing to determine their links” with Lassoued, France's anti-terrorism prosecutor's office said.

One suspect has lived in France for almost 20 years and denies the allegations, his lawyer Souleymen Rakrouki told AFP.

“He has nothing to do with the attack,” Mr Rakrouki said.

The attacker “is a friend he has known for a long time, he had not seen any sign of radicalisation. He could have never imagined such an act”, the lawyer said.

The suspects were among four people arrested last week as part of the investigation into possible accomplices of Lassoued. Police have released the other two without charge.

Lassoued had escaped from a Tunisian prison, where he was serving a long sentence, but Belgian authorities did not fulfil an August 2022 extradition request by Tunisia.

The shootings have renewed debate in Belgium over errors in following up on suspected radicals, particularly by the immigration services.

Official documents showed that Lassoued had lodged asylum applications in Norway, Sweden, Italy and Belgium. He had stayed in Belgium illegally after his bid for asylum was rejected in 2020.

An order was issued for his expulsion in March 2021 but never carried out.

Updated: October 24, 2023, 7:50 AM