Flemish PM clarifies what happened after fatal incident at Charleroi Airport

Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (Flemish nationalist) has confirmed that he did have a short conversation with Slovakian ambassador Vallo following the incident at Charleroi Airport that led to the death of a Slovakian businessman.

Jozef Chovanec died in 2018 after rough treatment by Belgian police officers in a police cell at the airport.  Mr Jambon was Belgian interior minister at the time and earlier told a Belgian TV station he had never heard about the case.

Mr Jambon told a news conference in Brasschaat (Antwerp Province) that he had what he described as a “short follow-up meeting” with the Slovakian ambassador.  The Flemish PM says that at that time he wasn’t allowed to provide the ambassador with additional information because a judicial investigation was already underway.  Mr Jambon says his recollection of the meeting is patchy as it happened a day after an IS attack in Liège.

Belgians have been eager to learn what precisely the former interior minister knew about police actions at Charleroi Airport after his successor Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian democrat) told lawmakers Mr Jambon was aware of the police actions involving Mr Chovanec.

Speaking in Brasschaat Mr Jambon noted that what he described as the “dreadful images” of the police intervention only came to light this summer.  The images show a police officer sitting on Mr Chovanec while another female officer made the Nazi salute.

A reconstruction of events by his office shows that two officials met with ambassador Vallo on 2 May when Mr Jambon was abroad.  A second meeting occurred on 30 May in the presence of Mr Jambon, who had returned from abroad.  Mr Jambon met the ambassador for a “short follow-up meeting”. He has no recollection of this meeting.

Ambassador Vallo has already said that he did not receive any further information at this time.  Mr Jambon underlines that he couldn’t provide any further information as the matter was under investigation. 

 “I regret I remember so little about this two-year-old case that led me to make assertions that following a reconstruction proved to be wrong.”

Mr Jambon added he never had any intention of manipulating the truth.  He also acknowledges that the TV interview he gave to VTM News in which he denied any knowledge of the case was a mistake. 

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