BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Brussels bombings suspect charged with terrorist murder, but then released on Monday, had a credible alibi and was definitely not the ‘man in the hat’ captured by security cameras at the airport before the blasts, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Olivier Martins said there was no forensic evidence tying his client, Faycal Cheffou, to the scene, and said he had been charged on the basis of testimony by a taxi driver, who drove the suspected bombers to the airport.
Cheffou was released four days after being detained near the prosecutor’s office in Brussels.
Some media had said Cheffou was the man pictured at Brussels airport alongside two others who blew themselves up and his release was a major blow to an investigation that had led to several people being detained for lessers offences elsewhere in Belgium and in the Netherlands, Italy and France.
“He (Cheffou) was at home, and that could be confirmed by telephone calls,” Martins said. “It was possible to confirm where he was with his mobile phone at that moment and at that moment he was at home.”
“I asked the judge for his release as a matter of urgency,” he said, adding that there was no evidence from fingerprints or DNA tying his client to the scene.
Martins said that Cheffou remained officially charged for the time being, but that that would not remain the case for long.
Under Belgian law, an examining judge can order the release of a suspect, but only a specific court can remove charges against someone.
Martins added that authorities might have preferred to have kept his client in custody, but it would have scandalous if he had been kept in any longer.
“The judge knew that he had to handle this matter quickly,” he said.
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Richard Balmforth