MEP hit by defamation complaint over accusations of police brutality

MEP hit by defamation complaint over accusations of police brutality
German MEP Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana filed a complaint for police brutality against officers of the Brussels North police zone. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Brussels prosecutors have issued a defamation complaint against a German MEP who accused them of police brutality while she photographed an arrest.

The Brussels public prosecutor's office requested the North police zone to draw up a report on the incident and to issue a complaint for defamation as well as acting rebelliously and insulting police officers, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

"She insulted officers and tried to prevent the control of possible suspects of a serious violent case," a police source told the outlet.

Herzberger-Fofana, who is black, filed a police brutality complaint after officers "brutally pushed [her] against a wall and violently took [her] handbag" as she attempted to film a police check.

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On 17 June Herzberger-Fofana told members of the European Parliament that she had been searched while she attempted to film "nine police officers harassing two young blacks," even if filming police actions is legal in Belgium.

Spokesperson Audrey Dereymaeker of the Brussels North police zone said that they "did not understand" the MEP's behaviour, saying she was "like a small child" and dismissing accusations of violence and racism.

"We don't understand the woman's behaviour, we have not been racist or violent in our approach," Dereymaeker said. "She is a member of the European Parliament, but she behaved like a small child who did not get her way."

Dereymaeker said that police had been called to the station by a shop owner over two young blacks suspected of having assaulted a Moroccan migrant in an earlier incident.

The police spokesperson said that, while filming the check, Herzberger-Fofana acted "very uptight" and was loud enough to draw the attention of fellow passers-by.

"The woman was immediately very uptight. She started filming us, but especially the people we wanted to control (...) she said we had no right to control blacks," she said, adding that the MEP also insulted police "in German and French."

Dereymaeker said that the situation soon turned tense as they insisted to see the MEP's identity papers and unsuccessfully attempted to take her to the police station.

"Only after insisting did we get to see her papers and our female colleague could search her according to the rules."

"We took her arm, but given the gathering and noise, we had no choice but to let her go. Everything we claim here has been filmed by security cameras. We are sure of our case," Dereymaeker said.

She also said that that the two black youths who were the target of the original check had "remained calm all along and had nothing to do with the initial check, in the end."

Alexis Deswaef, Herzberger-Fofana's lawyer, said that police's allegations of defamation were "just false."

"That report for defamation is not consistent with reality — it's just false. We will prove in court that we are telling the truth," he said.

"There is also a witness, a professor of human rights from Ghent University," he added, referring to a university professor who recorded footage of it.

The president of the VSOA police union, Vincent Gilles, backed the defamation complaint and said that Herzberger-Fofana had "been allowed" to accuse Belgian police of racism before an "applauding" European Parliament.

"Consequently, if the investigation shows that the officers were acting correctly, I expect nothing less than all applauding parliamentarians to apologise to those officers," he said.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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