Reuzegom: additional investigation into Belgium’s deadly student hazing

Reuzegom: additional investigation into Belgium’s deadly student hazing

Additional investigation will be carried out into the case about the death of Belgian student Sanda Dia, who died in 2018 after a student hazing by the now-disbanded Flemish student club Reuzegom.

Several lawyers who are defending members of Reuzegom, as well as the lawyer of animal rights organisation Gaia, have been granted their requests for additional investigation, the public prosecutor's office in Limburg confirmed to VRT.

Dia, who was a 20-year-old civil engineering student at the University of Leuven, died of hypothermia and multiple organ failure during an initiation to join student club Reuzegom, after drinking large amounts of alcohol and fish oil, being urinated on and standing in a cold pool of water in December for an extended period of time.

18 members of the student club are suspected of administering harmful substances resulting in death, unintentional manslaughter, degrading treatment and refusal of assistance due to guilty negligence.

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On 4 September, a number of lawyers asked for additional investigation, resulting in the postponement of the 18 suspects' referral to the criminal court.

The investigating judge had until Friday 2 October to answer the questions of the different parties. Some questions have been rejected, others have been granted, according to the Limburg public prosecutor. However, what exactly will be investigated additionally will not be communicated.

In late August, new elements of the case surfaced, as the then-president of the organisation that brings together the student clubs of Leuven, Loko, revealed via Twitter and in Flemish press that Dia, whose father is of Senegalese origin, was allegedly subjected to racist remarks by members of Reuzegom repeatedly.

In the meantime, the story of how Dia died has made it across the Atlantic, and was reported on by The New York Times on Sunday 4 October, resulting in a flurry of (social) media attention abroad and renewed interest in Belgium, after the news was buried under recent reports of surging coronavirus cases and the formation of a new federal government.

On Twitter, the New York Times' article, which paints Dia's death against Belgium's colonial history and the recent anti-immigrant populism, is causing many people to draw attention to the case again, demanding #JusticeForSandaDia.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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