Federal police Director-General temporarily resigns over fatal Charleroi arrest

Federal police Director-General temporarily resigns over fatal Charleroi arrest
Still from CCTV footage originally obtained by Het Laatste Nieuws

The second-in-command of Belgium’s federal police has announced his temporary resignation following the surfacing of footage of an arrest in Charleroi in 2018, which saw a man pass away as an officer made a Hitler salute.

The decision came following a crisis meeting between federal police top figures, HLN reports. André Desenfants held the position of director-general, one step below commissary-general Mark Demesmaeker. His tasks included leading international police cooperation and overseeing the airport police.

On Wednesday, Minister of Home Affairs Pieter De Crem had asked the federal police to take swift action.

Desenfants was appointed director-general in 2017. At the time of the Charleroi incident in 2018, he served as the right hand of commissary-general Catherine De Bolle. De Bolle left the force for Europol in 2018. The responsibility for the police action then befell Desenfants, as he was the only one active in a high position of power over the entire course of the Charleroi investigation.

Jozef Chovanec (then 38) arrived at Charleroi Airport in February 2018. He was later locked into a police cell after being arrested for behaving aggressively when boarding a flight. Chovanec remained in the cell until midnight, repeatedly throwing himself against the cell door head first.

Six police officers intervened, sitting on and next to the cuffed man. His face was covered with a blanket. On the cell recordings, the officers seem to be in a cheerful mood. One officer does a little dance and proceeds to present a Hitler salute, complete with moustache.

The following day, Chovanec was transported to a hospital, where he passed away.

Two and a half years on, the judicial investigation into his death has not presented its conclusions yet. On Wednesday, it was announced that the female officer bringing the Hitler salute will be disciplined. Chovanec’s family fears the case will be covered up and buried.

Amée Zoutberg

The Brussels Times

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