Over 100 officers deployed in house search at Kurdish TV channels in East Flanders

Over 100 officers deployed in house search at Kurdish TV channels in East Flanders
Illustration image of a police raid. Credit: Belga

Last night, a house search was carried out in the building of two Kurdish TV stations in the Flemish municipality of Denderleeuw (East Flanders province). This happened at the request of France, which is investigating the financing of terrorism, the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office announced.

The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office confirmed the raid on the television studios of Sterk TV and Medya News, two Kurdish channels that broadcast from Denderleeuw. Reportedly, employees were handcuffed and a lot of technical equipment and laptops were seized.

Several people were arrested and interrogated but have since been released. The raid happened around 01:30 and lasted four hours. This is rather unusual, as the general rule in Belgium is that no house searches may be carried out after 21:00 or before 05:00. Such a nightly search is only possible if the owner of the building gives written permission, or is caught red-handed.

However, an explicit exception is made for terrorism-related crimes, when a search may be carried out at night with just the investigating judge's mandate.

The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office confirmed the raid in a press release, but did not provide any other information: "Given that Belgium is acting at the request of another country, it is up to that country’s judiciary to decide whether or not to provide the public with more information about this case."

'No justified reasons'

A total of more than 200 police officers were deployed, including special units, Het Laatste Nieuws reports. A water cannon was also brought to Denderleeuw in case the situation escalated, but it was not used.

Daniel Sommer, the director of Sterk Productions, said he received a message around 01:30 that "more than 100 police officers were trying to enter the building," De Morgen reports. Afterwards, the telephone line was cut off. Laptops and folders were taken from his office, he said.

Inside the building, several doors have been forced open to provide access to the offices, and the false ceiling has also been opened in various places.

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"We are in the dark as to what could be the reason for last night's raid," lawyer Fien Schreur told Belga News Agency. In a press release, the channels criticised that there are "no justified reasons" to "turn against the TV channels that target the Kurds."

In the past, house searches already took place at the stations in Denderleeuw. They are now pointing the finger at Turkey and its allies, and believe that the Belgian judiciary should stop acting in this way "on request."

According to the radio stations, Turkey has arrested many journalists in recent hours. However, the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office announced that these are searches in the context of a European Investigation Order issued by France, in an investigation into the financing of terrorism.

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