On Monday, prosecutors released the sole suspect charged directly in relation to last week’s Brussels terror attacks, citing a lack of evidence. Fayçal Cheffou, a citizen journalist, had been arrested outside the federal prosecutor’s office on Thursday and charged with “terrorist murder.”
According to NBC News, several people remain in custody, and three people have been charged with terror offenses. Cheffou, however, was the only person charged directly in connection with last Tuesday’s bombings.
Belgian media had cited police sources in saying Cheffou was the “man in the hat” seen in airport surveillance footage from just before the attacks. However, a new appeal issued by police Monday seeking help identifying that suspect appeared to cast doubt on the reports saying Cheffou was the man in question.
This is just the latest in a series of missteps taken by Belgian and French authorities leading up to the attacks and subsequent to them. Still, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Eric Van der Sijpt, said that the charges against Cheffou had not been dropped. “We’re not saying that he’s innocent. That we do not do,” he told the New York Times.
“It’s that he’s no longer needed in prison. But there are two different things. Preventative custody has nothing to do with the actual investigations or the charges brought,” Van der Sijpt said. Just hours before his release, however, a senior Belgian official had described Cheffou as “an extremist jihadi horror.”
The death toll in the bombing attack rose to 35 on Monday, as four victims who had been hospitalized succumbed to their injuries.