Algerian-borne Rabah Meniker faces deportation from Belgium after he was wrongfully accused of terrorism. The 40-year-old was pardoned after spending 1,722 days in pre-trial detention, with 591 days in solitary confinement.
Meniker was charged together with the “Argenteuil cell” after they were found on March 24, 2016 with a huge arsenal of weapons in Argenteuil, a district in the suburbs of Paris. Multiple trials were made which lead to the trial of seven accused people, including Meniker.
Along with Meniker, Reda Kriket, Anis Bahri and Abderrahmane Ameuroud were charged. France’s National Anti-Terrorism Office believed Ameuroud to be the leader of the thwarted terrorist attack.
Two of the accused, including Meniker, were acquitted at the end of the trial. Kriket, Bahri, and Ameuroud were sentenced to 24 years in prison for association with a criminal terrorist cell.
However, it appears that for Meniker, it was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He had been living in Belgium since 2007 but was detained because he was acquainted with Kriket.
On the night between 11 and 12 March 2016, Kriket arrived in Brussels and asked if he could come to Meniker’s place.
One detail of the case weighed heavily against Meniker, but it later turned out to be a translation error. During the tapped phone call, investigators confused two Arabic words: sila and silah. The first one means goods, while the second refers to weapons.
Prosecutors believed Meniker was bringing Kriket weapons and it took several months for investigators to realise that Meniker had never said that he had weapons. It was only after Meniker was behind bars that a prison guard of North African origin in Belgium helped translate the words.