An Al Qaeda terrorist who was convicted of plotting against the United States has sued the government of Belgium and won nearly 80,000 euros.


Every once in a while, a story comes along that makes people scratch their heads, and this is definitely one of them.


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Nizar Trabelsi was a Tunisian professional football player who was radicalized and became a jihadist. He played professional football for German football teams from 1989-1993. He had planned attacks against US targets in Europe, specifically the Kleine Brogel Air Force Base in Belgium. This base is home to:

  • United States Air Force’s 701st Munitions Support Squadron
  • Belgian 10th Tactical Wing
  • Allegedly home to American Nuclear bombs, however this has never been officially confirmed.

He was arrested in 2001 and convicted in 2003, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His home and a local cafe were searched upon his arrest, and it was quite clear with what they found:

  • False passports
  • Automatic weapons
  • 59 liters of Acetone, and 96 kilos of sulphur powder which when combined can be used to create acetone peroxide, a common homemade explosive.

Trabelsi was also sentenced in absentia(not present at the time of the case) by a Tunisian military court for “belonging to a terrorist organization abroad in peacetime”. All sentences were completed on June 23, 2012, and was take into custody the following day to await extradition to the United States, which happened on October 3, 2013.


Trabelsi was indicted by a grand jury in the United States in 2006, and according to the FBI, the charges were that “Trabelsi personally met in the spring of 2001 with Osama bin Laden to volunteer for a suicide bomb attack against U.S. interests. Preparations unfolded over the next several months, according to the indictment, with Trabelsi allegedly obtaining chemicals in Europe and subsequently joining others to scout a potential target: a military facility that was used by the United States and the United States Air Force.” These are extremely serious charges, and if extradited, he would face life in prison.

In 2013, he was extradited to the United States where he has been imprisoned since. He brought a suit against Belgium, alleging that the extradition broke European laws. The European Court of Human Rights agreed with them, and awarded the family 90,000 euros, but since the family had already received 11,000, the amount to be dispensed was just below 80,000 euros.


What part violated European laws?

Section 2 of the Belgian Act says “Nor can extradition be granted if there are serious risks that if the person were extradited he would be subjected to a flagrant denial of justice, acts of torture or inhuman and/or degrading treatment in the requesting State.” This last part is where the courts felt that the extradition request was improper. The US openly and proudly incarcerates terrorists for life. Endangering the safety of the general public using weapons of mass destruction carries a penalty of life in prison. Given that the defendant was a Muslim accused of acts of terror, the situation of Guantanamo Bay was brought up, and allegations of torture and strict detention conditions arose, and this, along with the condition of life without parole, led the court to see this extradition request to be in violation of Article 3 of the Convention. It should be noted that the court said that life in prison alone is not enough to violate Article 3, but in combination with the fact that no individuals convicted of terrorism have had their sentences reduced led the courts to decide that this violated the Convention. In layman’s terms this means that because there was no wiggle room in the “life” part of the sentence, it violates the rules in Europe, and therefore the extradition was improper. 

The court awarded him 30,000 euros to pay for his legal fees, and 60,000 euros in damages. Read the entire case judgement here.