Share article:
Share article:

De Crem: Jambon knew about Charleroi Airport death in 2018

Pieter De Crem (left) and Koen Geens. © Bruno Fahy, Belga

Jan Jambon, federal home affairs minister at the time of the death in police custody of Jozef Chovanec, was made aware of the incident days after it happened, according to the current minister Pieter De Crem.

De Crem, together with justice minister Koen Geens (both CD&V) was appearing before the joint home affairs and justice committee of the federal parliament, called at short notice to enquire into the death, which took place at Charleroi Airport in 2018.

The death of Chovanec came to light last week when video surfaced of the heavy-handed reaction by airport police when the man, a Slovakian national, became agitated and had to be restrained. Prior to his arrest, Chovanec had been ordered to leave the aircraft he had boarded after pushing a steward.

The revelation led to two senior police officers being moved to other duties until an investigation, started shortly after the events in question, is completed.

Members of the committee wanted to know, among other things, how it is possible nobody including senior police officers and politicians were unaware of what had gone on at Charleroi.

De Crem, appearing first, pointed out he had not been home affairs minister – in charge of the police – at the time of the incident, and in fact only took over in December 2018 when Jambon’s party N-VA quit the government of Charles Michel.

Since then, he went on, he had not been informed of the case, and had no knowledge of camera footage.

The arrest of Chovanec took place on 25 February 2018, and the federal police were informed the following day, De Crem said. His wife contacted the Slovakian embassy on 26 February after he was admitted to hospital. Chovanec died in hospital on 27 February.

And at around the same time, he said, Jambon had been brought up to speed.

My predecessor had contact with the Slovak ambassador in 2018 during which the death of Mr Chovanec was discussed. My predecessor’s chief of staff also received a report from the protocol department of the foreign affairs ministry about their contacts with the ambassador.”

De Crem told the committee that Philippe Goffin (MR), minister for foreign affairs, had received the Slovakian ambassador in July 2018, who informed him in the course of their conversation that he (the ambassador) had already been in contact with Jambon and discussed Chovanec’s death. A report of the conversation was later passed to Jambon’s chief of staff.

Last week Jambon denied any knowledge of the matter, and his spokesperson posted on Twitter that Jambon “had never heard anything about the Charleroi incident until the reporting of the last few days”.

At the time of writing, the committee proceedings were continuing, with justice minister Koen Geens due to speak and answer questions.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Over 50,000 march against fascism in Rome
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against fascism in Rome on Saturday, one week after violent protests against the Covid certificate. Over ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
Vaccinations: Belgium’s Health Minister currently not in favour of a general booster shot
The latest figures on new coronavirus cases are worrying, but rather than imposing new safety measures, what is needed is full compliance with ...
Thousands protest against the Covid health pass in France
Demonstrations against the health pass and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus mobilised tens of thousands of protesters ...
Record-breaking 770-metre highline installed in Freÿr, Belgium
A 770-metre long highline was installed at an altitude of 70 metres at the Freÿr Rocks on Saturday, setting a new Belgian record, according to ...
Huge cannabis farm discovered inside closed down Chinese restaurant near Charleroi
A cannabis plantation with several hundred mature plants was dismantled on Friday evening in a former Chinese restaurant on Chaussée de Bruxelles ...
Citizen founded wind turbine project launched in Liège region
A citizen founded wind turbine project was inaugurated in the Liège Region on Saturday by Walloon Energy Minister Philippe Henry (Ecolo) together ...
Five questions to philosopher Philippe Van Parijs on Leopold II and embarrassment in Brussels’ public space
The worldwide explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, combined with the 60th anniversary of the ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The federal government will set aside about one million euros in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister ...
Unfinished draft of new Astérix story discovered
The discovery of the unfinished draft of a cartoon album on the most famous of all Gauls, sketched by cartoonist René Goscinny, was announced by his ...
Anti-vaxxers demonstrate against Covid Safe Ticket in Brussels
Hundreds of supporters of the anti-vaxx movement gathered on Saturday outside the headquarters of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to protest ...
Belgium’s investment funds total 260 billion euros in assets
Belgium’s funds industry grew by 5.3% (13 billion euros) in the second quarter of this year, bringing investment funds available to the public to ...