Interior Minister says predecessor was aware of Slovak businessman’s death

Speaking before a meeting of the Federal Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee the Federal Interior Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian democrat) said that his predecessor, the current Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (Flemish nationalist), had been informed of the death of the Slovak businessman Jozef Chovenec in March 2018. Mr Chovenec died after having been detained for refusing to show his plane ticket and causing an affray at Charleroi Airport.

Last week CCTV footage of Mr Chovenec banging his head against the wall of his cell and a police officer sitting on him for several minutes while waiting for a medic to come and give him a sedative. While Mr Chovanec was being sat on the other officers present appeared to be laughing and joking, one of them making a Nazi salute as the detainee lay in distress under her colleague. The Slovak businessman died in hospital a few days after the incident in February 2018. Since the shocking image emerged last week two high ranking Federal Police officers have stepped aside. 

Wednesday’s meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee was called to discuss the incident. 

On Tuesday the Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin (Francophone liberal) informed Mr De Crem that the Belgian Foreign Ministry had spoken to the Slovak Ambassador about Mr Chovenec’s death on 2 July 2018. 

During the meeting the Ambassador said that he had already spoken to the then Interior Minister Jan Jambon. Minutes of the meeting between the Foreign Ministry and the Slovak Ambassador were sent to the Chief Official at Mr Jambon’s office on 4 July 2018. 

The investigation is still ongoing

The Federal Police top brass were aware of Mr Chovenec’s death, but not of the shocking CCTV footage. This had been taken as evidence by the Judicial authorities in Charleroi. 

The Justice Minister Koen Geens (Flemish Christian democrat) told the Select Committee that the investigation is still ongoing. At the request of the Examining Magistrate, the police complaints committee Comité P has interviewed around 60 people. The civil parties have had access to the case file containing the evidence gathered a total of 7 times and have twice requested that additional elements be investigated. The civil parties also presented a second psychiatric report on 23 August (Monday of this week). Today the Examining Magistrate decided that a reconstruction should be held. 

Mr Jambon has said that he will look into what happened and will provide any information necessary to the Select Committee. 

 

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