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Sebastien Courtoy, Belgian lawyer of convincted attacker of Brussels' Jewish museum Mehdi Nemmouche, answers journalists' questions at the courthouse in Brussels early on March 12, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Brussels: The French jihadist who shot dead four people in a terrorist attack at a Jewish museum was on Tuesday sentenced to life in prison by a Brussels court, after prosecutors branded him a “coward” and a “psychopath”.

Mehdi Nemmouche was convicted last week of “terrorist murder” for the anti-Semitic gun rampage in the Belgian capital in May 2014, a crime committed following his return from Syria’s battlefields.

He was found to have killed the four victims in less than 90 seconds, shooting them with a handgun and a Kalashnikov rifle with what one paramedic who attended the scene called “surgical” precision.

Before jurors retired to consider the sentence on Monday, the 33-year-old had smirked and told the Brussels criminal court “life goes on”.

The court, which handed down the sentence in the early hours of Tuesday morning, said the 33-year-old had shown no regret for the killings.

“Mr Nemmouche, you are just a coward, you kill people by shooting them from behind, you kill old women by shooting them with an assault rifle, you kill because it gives you pleasure to kill,” prosecutor Yves Moreau had said.

Urging the jury to take a firm line, Moreau said: “If you say that in Belgium one can be a terrorist without being punished very severely, then we must not be surprised to see people arrive in this country with bombs or assault rifles in their suitcases.”

Nacer Bendrer, who was found guilty of being the co-author of the attack for supplying the weapons Nemmouche used, was handed a jail sentence of 15 years.

Bendier, who is also French, said he was ashamed that he had ever met Nemmouche, saying “he’s not even a man, he’s a monster”.

The pair, who have 15 days to lodge an appeal, will both serve their sentences in France.

The investigation showed that the two men had dozens of telephone conversations in April 2014, when Nemmouche was preparing for the killings.

Six days after the massacre, Nemmouche was arrested in the French city of Marseille in possession of a revolver and a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle.

Prosecutors say the attack was the first carried out in Europe by a jihadist returning to the continent after fighting in Syria.

The Brussels killings came 18 months before the November 2015 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead.

Nemmouche denied the charges against him, with his lawyers arguing he was not to blame for the slaughter, but rather he had been caught up in some kind of plot targeting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

— AFP