Verviers trial
Belgian police stand guard outside the courtroom..REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The trial of 16 members of a suspected terrorist cell from the East Belgian town of Verviers began on Monday (9 May) in Brussels. They are accused of plotting a terrorist attack in the eastern town and they are allegedly related to the group that attacked Brussels and Paris.

On 15 January, 2015, a week after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, the Belgian police raided a house in Verviers where two men were killed and a third was captured, according to the BBC. The third captured man, Marouane El Bali, 26, was one of the defendants to appear in court on Monday. The lawyer of El Bali said his client had done nothing wrong and was "at the wrong place in the wrong time".

While 16 people have gone on trial, nine are still at large. According to prosecutors, this cell was run by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the leader of the November 2015 attacks in Paris. He was killed by the police in a shootout days after the Paris attacks.

Media reports say security at the court was tight. The lawyers of two of the accused said they could not speak to their clients because of a strike in Belgian jails.

Shortly after the raid, federal magistrate Eric Van der Sijpt said: "The group was on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks to kill police officers in public roads and in police stations."

He added that the police found Kalashnikovs, ammunition, explosives and communication equipment and police uniforms in the raid.