European Parliament pushes Belgium for 'truth' in fatal Charleroi arrest

European Parliament pushes Belgium for 'truth' in fatal Charleroi arrest
EP President David Sassoli © EP Media Centre

The European Parliament (EP) is backing calls for the truth to come to light as Belgium continues to investigate the 2018 death of a Slovak national after a controversial arrest in Charleroi.

EP President David Sassoli on Tuesday opened the assembly's plenary session expressing solidarity with the victim's family and calling for transparency in the probe.

"We join in on pleas for the truth to be found and call for explanations from those responsible," Sassoli said to MEPs in Brussels. "I stress once again that the respect for human rights and for the rule of law is a central value of the European Union."

Sassoli said his address in the EP came after "several calls from colleagues and citizens" drew his attention to the case of 38-year-old Jozef Chovanec, a Slovak national who died after being held by Belgian federal police officers in Charleroi Airport in 2018.

Under investigation for years, the man's death was thrust back into the spotlight after footage emerged of Chovanec's arrest in the airport, in which one officer can be seen doing a Nazi salute while several others restrain Chovanec.

Ahead of the officers' intervention, the video shows Chovanec acting erratically inside an airport cell and banging his head on the door until he begins to bleed.

The footage then shows several officers restraining him and one officer kneeling on his back for several minutes even after he was immobilised and did not show physical resistance.

Sassoli said that the EP's Committee on Civil Liberties had been assigned to deal with the case and said that the rest of the parliament would "follow developments closely."

Sassoli's comments follow calls from Slovak authorities for the European Commission to look into the case, in a largely symbolic move underscoring distrust in the Belgian investigation already expressed by Chovanec's widow, who said top Belgian officials were attempting to bury the probe.

Last week, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova doubled down on pressuring Belgium for a full investigation, announcing she would issue a request for a Slovak investigator to assist in the probe.

The return of Chovanec's death to the spotlight has spurred a political storm in Belgium, landing the federal police and Former Interior Minister Jan Jambon in hot water as Belgian MPs launched a parliamentary commission into their handling of the affair.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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