Two civilians mistakenly arrested in Antwerp counterterrorism drill

Two civilians mistakenly arrested in Antwerp counterterrorism drill

Antwerp police have issued an apology late Wednesday after they mistakenly arrested two civilians during a counterterrorism exercise that took place in the city's Sportpaleis concert hall last week. "During the safety exercise, an error was made," The Antwerp police said on Twitter late Monday night. "We regret this mistake and formally apologize."

One of the arrested civilians has filed a complaint for discrimination.

According to media reports, the drill consisted of a simulated shooting which involved around 1,100 participants.

The apology was issued after Hamed Jabarkhel, one of the two wrongfully detained civilians who works in the vicinity of the Sportpaleis, shared his account of the events on Facebook on May 1.

"At least two agents asked me if I would participate in the exercise. I said that I knew nothing, that I am innocent and that I do not know what is going on."

In his post, Jaberkhel said the incident made him feel "powerless and humiliated," as he described how and his colleague were held at gunpoint by "nine heavily armed agents, pushed to the ground and handcuffed."

"There were no explanations," he says, adding that he was put in a van with other participants, but that, unlike them, he remained handcuffed.

When he asked police if he was in custody "because [he] was brown," he said he received threatening replies from the agents, and complained that he only managed to lodge a complaint after insisting at length.

A spokesperson for the Antwerp police forces said the incident "should never have taken place."

Jaberkhel said that his arrest was filmed by bystanders, and calls on his post to be shared and on footage of the events to be shared with him.

"I hope this helps me ensure that the police take my complaint seriously," he stated.
The Antwerp police stated that the matter is under investigation by the public prosecutor's office and their internal supervision department, adding that it was "not inconceivable" for participants in a drill to "very convincingly claim that they had nothing to do with it."

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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