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Jambon and De Bolle to appear before Select Committee

The Flemish Prime Minister and former Interior Minister Jan Jambon (Flemish nationalist) and the current Executive Director of Europol Catherine De Bolle are to appear in front of the Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee of the Federal Parliament next Tuesday. They will answer questions about what they knew about the death of the Slovak businessman Jozef Chovanec. Mr Chovenec died in hospital a few days after he had been detained by the Federal Aviation Police at Charleroi Airport in Hainaut Province in February 2018. At the time Ms De Bolle was Commissioner-General of the Federal Police Service and Mr Jambon was the Interior Minister in Belgium’s Federal Government. 

Last week CCTV footage was published 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 images emerged last week two high ranking Federal Police officers have stepped aside. 

Last week Mr Jambon said that he was unaware of the incident. However, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee, the current Federal Interior Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian democrat) said that the Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin (Francophone liberal) had 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 this 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. 

It was also said that the Federal Police top brass were aware of Mr Chovenec’s death, but not of the shocking CCTV footage. 

In a statement released on Wednesday evening Mr Jambon’s spokesman denied any wrong-doing on the part of the man who is now Flemish Prime Minister. Mr Jambon now says that his staff were aware of Mr Chovenec’s death, but he can’t remember hearing anything about it.

 

Greens want to invite Slovak Ambassador

The Flemish and Francophone greens have expressed their wish to also invite the Slovak Ambassador to next Tuesday’s meeting of the Select Committee. After Mr Chovanec’s death the Ambassador met with members of Mr Jambon’s staff. Last week Mr Jambon claimed that he “hadn’t heard a word about the incident”. Now the current Flemish PM says that members of his staff had been informed but he “doesn’t remember” whether he had been told about it. 

The Flemish green federal MP Jessika Soors says that inviting the Slovak Ambassador to answer questions at the Select Committee is “the best way to find out what information was made available to Mr Jambon’s office and what action was taken in response to this". 

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