Fatal arrest at Charleroi Airport: minister to tell his side of the story
Share article:
Share article:

Fatal arrest at Charleroi Airport: minister to tell his side of the story

Jan Jambon, the Flemish minister-president who was federal home affairs minister at the time of the death at Charleroi Airport in February 2018, will today tell his own side of the story from his home town in Brasschaat.

Jambon (N-VA) has been accused of being informed of the circumstances of the death of Chovanec, while his response has wavered between denial and ‘no recollection’.

Jozef Chovanec, a Slovakian national, was boarding a flight at Charleroi Airport when he had an altercation with an air steward and was ejected from the plane by the captain.

He then confronted airport police who, in the light of his agitated state, called a doctor to see if it was safe to detain him. The doctor approved.

Inside the holding cell at the airport, Chovanec became even more agitated and starting hitting his head against the wall until he bled.

At this point, the narrative is taken up by video images which emerged only last week, Made by a camera inside the cell, they show the police entering and wrestling Chovanec to the ground, holding him down firmly, with one officer clearly sitting on his back as he lay on the floor.

Chovanec then became so unwell he had to be moved to hospital, where he died two days later.

A judicial investigation was opened immediately into the circumstances of the case, and more than two years later has yet to conclude.

The release of the video has however brought the case back to the attention of the political authorities, and the joint justice and home affairs committee of the federal parliament this week held an emergency session in which members questioned Pieter De Crem (CD&V), the current home affairs minister, and Koen Geens (CD&V), currently justice minister.

De Crem was not minister at the time of the events; that post was held by Jambon, and the question then became, what did he know, and when did he know it?

Jambon will come before the committee on Tuesday, but he has chosen to take the initiative today to set his story straight.

Jambon has denied categorically that he was informed of the incident when he was minister. When De Crem told the committee that the Slovakian ambassador had spoken with Jambon about the case, Jambon responded that while his staff may have been contacted, the matter did not reach him.

Later, he said that he may have been informed, but he now has no memory of such.

Today’s presentation will take the form of a press conference, and unlike a committee hearing in parliament, Jambon will have control over the circumstances and the questions and answers.

Whether the intention is to clear the air or to put his own stamp on the story for the benefit of the Sunday political programmes – which tend to set the agenda for the week to come – the date with the committee remains fixed, and that is where questions have to be answered, like it or not.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

‘More concern and false impressions’: colds are not worse than before, experts say
While it seems like cold viruses are hitting especially hard this autumn, with more severe and longer-lasting symptoms, doctors are saying that this ...
More women take police selection tests in Belgium
The selection tests to become a police inspector have more and more female participants, according to figures released by Interior Affairs Minister ...
‘Absurd’: all Brussels schools should have the same Covid rules
Several city councillors for education in Brussels are calling to abolish the "absurd" differences in coronavirus measures for Dutch-speaking and ...
Massive renovations for iconic venue in the heart of Brussels
Brussels concert hall Ancienne Belgique has announced plans to renovate the AB Café and the AB Salon and is looking for a contractor fit for the job. ...
Display of child’s room in Brussels raises awareness of foster families
An exhibit that features a fictitious child’s bedroom has been on display since Tuesday at the Place d'Armes in Namur, with the support of the ...
Test results show pupils have fallen behind in Flemish schools
Learning delays have been reported in almost all subject areas in Flanders since the start of the pandemic, a trend that continued in 2021, a ...
Belgium considers relaxing testing rules for UK travellers
At the next Consultative Committee meeting, Belgium will look into relaxing the testing and entry policy for travellers coming from the United ...
Jette libraries start giving plants away with books
Visitors to libraries in the Brussels municipality of Jette will soon be able to pick up a free plant along with a book, thanks to the new Plantotek ...
‘Do what you want, but do it as safely as possible,’ experts warn
As the daily number of new coronavirus infections exceeds 3,000 for the first time since May, infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe and ...
‘We’re running dry’: Brussels teacher shortage reaches critical levels
The teacher shortage in Brussels is affecting schools across language borders, according to Brussels’ Minister for Multilingualism and Dutch ...
New coronavirus infections above 3,000 for first time since May
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has skyrocketed to the highest rate since the start of May 2021. Between 9 and 15 October, ...
Belgium in Brief: Getting To The Airport
When I saw the news of plans for a tram line and cycle path to connect Brussels' outskirts to the airport, my first reaction was sheer joy.  Let ...