On Wednesday, the Brussels correctional court sentenced 16 travellers who had presented a false certificate of a negative PCR test at Brussels Airport to up to one year in prison.
The 16 travellers are the first group of the 160 people that the public prosecutor is taking to court for this specific reason, reports the Belga News Agency.
In recent months, 820 people who presented a false PCR test at departure were caught at Brussels Airport. About 80% of them paid the amicable settlement of €750, but the others are now brought to court in groups by the Halle-Vilvoorde public prosecutor’s office.
However, 12 people did not attend the hearing. Of them, 11 were sentenced to six months in prison and a €1,600 fine for forgery. The twelfth defendant’s prison sentence was doubled to one year as he was effectively infected with the coronavirus when he presented his false certificate.
One defendant who did show up but had maintained her innocence was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of six months and an €800 fine. The three others who were present were given 60 hours of community service or a one-year alternative prison sentence.
“There are few textbook examples of such unrestrained selfish behaviour,” the court said in its judgement, underlining that the defendants had not only displayed anti-social behaviour, but also potentially life-threatening behaviour.
“The defendants willfully endanger society by placing their own freedom to travel above the public interest, and particularly above the freedom of everyone to live.”
Additionally, the court stressed that international air travel is “the perfect tool” for a virus to continue to spread on a large scale. “For citizens who are not concerned with the welfare of their fellow citizens, the court’s opinion is that severe punishment is the only appropriate social response to make them aware of the inadmissible nature of their actions.”