'Justice pour Adil': Officers' trial delayed while protestors in court today

'Justice pour Adil': Officers' trial delayed while protestors in court today
Police arresting people gathering to commemorate 19-year old Adil, who was killed in April after being hit by a police van. Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

The officers involved in the death of Adil – the 19-year-old who died in a collision with a police car in Brussels in 2020 – may not face trial, while several people arrested in a protest the day after the incident appeared in court on Tuesday.

On 10 April 2020, police officers in the municipality of Anderlecht wanted to carry out a check on Adil for not respecting Covid-19 restrictions, but the young man fled on a scooter before being hit by a police car driving in the opposite direction.

The Brussels Public Prosecutor's Office in November 2020 already announced that it would request to drop the charges against the officers involved in the accident, much to the dismay of Adil's family who are disagreeing with the authorities' view of what happened.

The chase started around 21:00 as Adil fled from the police check via Place Dr De Meersman, where bollards blocked the way for the police. Another police car was called in for reinforcement and drove towards Adil on the Quai de l'Industrie.

Double standards?

According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, Adil was driving behind a van, but when the van passed the police vehicle, he emerged from behind it and hit the front left side of the police vehicle head-on. The police car drove between 17-25 km/h, while Adil reportedly drove between 57-70 km/h and did not wear his helmet correctly.

Banner for Adil. Credit: Belga/Jens Thys

On the basis of these elements, the Public Prosecutor decided to request to drop the charges for the officers involved, including the driver of the police car.

Adil's family, however, disagreed with that view and is calling for a trial before the criminal court. Now, additional investigations have been requested again – as a result of which the hearing of the case has been postponed to 5 September.

Meanwhile, this week nine people stood appeared in court for a different trial earlier for the violent scenes that broke out in Anderlecht after Adil's death: a gathering had been organised in his local neighbourhood in Anderlecht in the aftermath of the incident.

Protestors in the dock

However, the gathering turned violent following clashes with police, which saw 45 arrests and several police officers injured. The nine of those standing trial now have all been accused of participating in the so-called "riots" that occurred the day after the incident.

Police were able to identify 18 of the protest’s participants thanks to surveillance images which, in some cases, included identifying the rioters' underwear. Only nine of the 18 set to stand trial appeared at Monday’s hearing, all of whom admitted to having been present.

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Those accused have maintained that while they had targeted police vehicles, they did not aim at the officers themselves. When one of the suspects was asked if they were mad at the police, they said "No, just against the police officers who killed Adil."

Reports from the trial indicate the anger that protestors felt following the incident, with Adil's death viewed as a symptom of worsening tensions between residents and police. "In another case, I had to defend a client who had been searched 15 times in a few months," the defence lawyer Olivier Martins told La Libre.

He added that their frustrations at police “misusing their powers” had been “manifested” during the violent protests. At the time, Adil’s death was the 13th case of police brutality in the country since 2017, according to the Observatory of Police Violence in Belgium.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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