A retired Belgian army officer, General Guy Buchsenschmidt, has said he was “profoundly shocked” at the decision of the government to sack the head of military intelligence, Major-General Philippe Boucké.
The decision was made on Friday by defence minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS), based on the failing noted by numerous reports into the case of the fugitive corporal Jürgen Conings, who disappeared heavily armed with stolen weapons and remained at large for more than a month until being found dead by his own hand.
Conings, it was revealed, had been identified by Boucké’s service as a far-right extremist, and by the national office for risk assessment as a potential terrorist with a possibility for causing violence.
Despite those evaluations, Conings was still able to work with weapons, and to take them on what was intended to be his last crusade.
Gen. Buchsenschmidt said he was shocked, firstly, on a personal level. Boucké. He told Belga news agency, was a “remarkable, even exceptional officer,” who, under Buchsenschmidt’s command, had shown himself to be “disciplined, loyal and tireless worker”.
He claimed Boucké was now, despite a brilliant career, the victim of “public vindictiveness”.
“I have been along that road and I still feel the consequences from day to say,” he said, referring to a case of harassment of junior officers which saw him end up in court last year. One accuser committed suicide, and two others received damages of €21,000 each, to be paid by the Belgian state.
The general accused the minister and her advisers of ‘ineptitude’ in dropping the pilot, in the words of the 1890 cartoon by Sir John Tenniel, criticising Germany’s decision to sack Otto Von Bismarck.
"Who other than Philippe Boucké could, with his experience, his wisdom and his knowledge, draw lessons from a Conings affair which ultimately only represents a non-event, in a world infinitely more worrying, to put it mildly?,” he enquired.
“Because the worst is yet to come.”
And he wished his former subordinate good luck and courage.
"We the military support you wholeheartedly," he concluded.