Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella - one of the central figures implicated in the Qatargate corruption scandal - broke down in tears at a press conference on Wednesday morning following his release from pre-trial detention.
"Prison is not easy for a guilty person, and what can we say about an innocent person," Tarabella said, in comments that were widely reported by Belgian media. "We can't make a stone bleed. I had nothing to do with any of this, I didn't get any money. I don't want to comment on the investigation. I have an interest in the truth being known."
Tarabella had been under house arrest at his home in Anthisnes, Wallonia, for the past month, where he had been required to wear a movement-monitoring electronic ankle bracelet. Under the terms of his release, he is no longer required to wear the bracelet, although he must inform the Belgian authorities if he intends to travel abroad.
"[This has been] the worst period of my life," Tarabella added. "I welcome yesterday's decision very favourably... The fight continues, the investigation continues, I will not make any further statements."
Former parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi, who has also been under house arrest in Belgium in connection with the Qatargate scandal, was released under similar conditions alongside Tarabella.
'I thought it was a mistake'
During the press conference, Tarabella recounted his experiences shortly after the scandal broke in December last year.
"I thought it was a mistake," the MEP said. "I did my shopping and I watched a football match. Then the unthinkable happens, police officers arrive at my house for a search. I was stunned, my family was in shock."
He added: "I didn't understand. I had nothing to reproach myself for and there was an investigating judge, the president of my parliament, policemen and even a dog at my house. I would like to emphasise the tact and professionalism of the police officers who carried out the search."
Following the December house search, Tarabella was arrested by the Belgian authorities on 10 February, just days after his immunity was formally suspended by the European Parliament.
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Among other allegations, Tarabella has been accused by Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri of accepting bribes of up to €140,000 to support pro-Qatari policies. Panzeri has already admitted to having accepted bribes and is now collaborating with the Belgian authorities in order to receive a reduced jail sentence.
Echoing his own lawyer's previous comments, Tarabella claimed that he had been imprisoned "on the sole basis of the words of a man... who does not want to be devoured." Tarabella's lawyer, Maxim Töller, added at the press conference that "recent elements make it possible to question the credibility of Mr Panzeri's statements. The investigation is moving fast."