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    Sheltering suspects is punishable by law in Belgium


    Salah Abdselam and Amine Choukri were arrested in Molenbeek on Friday. They were at the house of a family that was sheltering them. Three members of that family were also arrested. A person sheltering a criminal is not always charged, Mr Pierre Chomé explained to the Belga agency. They can only be charged if they knew their guest was a criminal. Seeing as the search for Salah Abdeslam was all over the news, the family must have known, according to the prosecution lawyer and penal law assistant at the ULB.

    In Belgium, sheltering suspects is punishable by law, but the notion has become outdated. The justice department prefers to charge people with being part of a criminal organisation.

    In the case of the Paris attacks, the organisation concerned is a terrorist one. You don’t have to be involved in a terrorist attack to be considered a member of a terrorist organisation, says Mr Chomé. Things like making meals for or sheltering suspects can be enough.

     “The justice department tends to react strongly, and can sometimes be very stubborn. At the same time, the political world is putting stricter and stricter measures in place, without providing extra resources”, the prosecution lawyer added. He did say that terrorist investigations are extremely sensitive. “A single suspect can’t do a lot on their own, and they need help (to commit criminal acts). The criminal organisation might not be ready to attack straight away. Therefore, you need to attack dormant structures”, he said.

    Finally, if someone is prevented from taking part in criminal activity, you need to work out what role they play: whether they are simply soldiers (members) or leaders.  

    Jason Bennett (Source: Belga)