Belgian journalists who housed migrants acquitted by Brussels court
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Belgian journalists who housed migrants acquitted by Brussels court

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

The Brussels court of appeals acquitted four people who hosted migrants in their homes and were charged with human trafficking on Wednesday, including two Belgian journalists.

The court also handed down reduced sentences to the migrants, who had helped others illegally cross into Britain.

The court was particularly harsh on the prosecution, declaring the appeals against three defendants, including two of the “hosts” of the migrants (for whom the prosecution itself had asked for acquittal in the first place) “irrelevant.”

The court said that to request an acquittal, obtain it and then appeal against the decision is “nonsense,” thereby confirming the acquittals of the hosts, including journalists Anouk Van Gestel and Myriam Berghe.

Van Gestel and Berghe both worked for Marie Claire Belgique, and had been facing up to ten years in prison if convicted of the human trafficking charges they were first given.

The migrants were first given up to 40 months’ suspended imprisonment, but the prosecution appealed, asking for five years. The court responded by reducing the sentences even further, to between one year and 20 months’ imprisonment for the seven migrant defendants.

The court said that the migrants had indeed been involved in human trafficking, but were also victims of trafficking themselves. They helped other migrants board trucks heading to Britain in return for payment, while they themselves waited to reach the country, too.

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