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Belgian parliament reopens under high security

Belgium's federal parliament has taken additional security measures, but kept its threat level at three on a four-tier scale. This follows criticism of Belgium last week for lowering its national alert level to three.

A police car parked in front of the Belgian Federal Parliament building in Brussels

A police car parked in front of the Belgian Federal Parliament building in Brussels

Parliament opened normally again March 29, although only one entrance is reportedly in use.

Belgium lowered its security alert level last week one notch down from four, the highest level, to three. Officials did not say whether what would mean in terms of security measures that have seen a heavy police and military presence in Brussels.

Le Soir newspaper Tuesday said the threat level in the parliament had been raised to the highest level, citing President of the Lower House, Siegfried Bracke.

A spokeswoman for the parliament denied reports that the threat level for the institution had been officially raised, but said extra precautions were in place.

"We have been told to take additional security measures, above ground as well as below ground," the spokeswoman said.

Lawyer claims suspect has alibi

Meanwhile, the Brussels bombing suspect who was charged with terrorist murder and released Monday was not the "man in the hat," his lawyer said. The release of Faycal Cheffou is a serious blow to the ongoing investigation.

Olivier Martins, the lawyer of Faycal Cheffou, said Tuesday his client has a "credible alibi" and that there is no forensic evidence tying his client to the scene of the airport attacks on March 22.

"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," he added.

Martins told reporters that Cheffou had been charged on the basis of the testimony of the taxi driver who drove the suspected bombers to the airport.

"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.

Cheffou remains officially charged

, but this will not remain the case for long, Martins said.

He was freed four days after being detained near the prosecutor's office in Brussels.

Under Belgian law, an examining judge can order the release of a suspect, but only a specific court can remove charges against someone. "The judge knew that he had to handle this matter quickly," Martins said.

It had been speculated in various media outlets that Cheffou had been captured by security cameras at the airport before the blasts alongside two others who blew themselves up.

The ongoing investigation has led to several people being detained for lesser offences in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and France.

Getting back to normal

Meanwhile, a week after the attacks on Brussels airport and a subway station in the city, underground rail services are mostly running, but under heavy guard. The metro trains through the city are less frequent and stop at about half the stations, while Maelbeek station - which was hit by a suicide bomber in the morning rush hour - remains closed.

A Belgian forensic police takes pictures during police operations in Schaerbeek following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels

A Belgian forensic police takes pictures during police operations in Schaerbeek following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels

Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur met Tuesday with his Paris counterpart Anne Hidalgo in Paris to discuss joint measures to be taken after the attacks.

"Our two cities have been attacked and wounded. Entire families are in mourning," Mayeur was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"Isolation and social segregation, ghettoization sparked the tragedies we have experienced and, without doubt, will continue to experience," he said.

jbh/rc (Reuters, dpa)

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