Wednesday, 29 September 2021
The prosecutors of Mons and Liege have completed a two-day reconstruction of the incident at Charleroi airport in February 2018 that led to the death of a 38-year-old Slovak man.
Jozef Chovanec was removed from a flight when he became aggressive towards personnel, and taken to a police cell in the airport. There, he began hitting his head against a wall and the cell door, time after time, until he was bleeding.
Police entered the cell and restrained him, with one officer kneeling on his back, and his hands and feet fastened with plastic ties. That situation continued until eventually a medical orderly delivered a tranquilliser.
But Chovanec was found to be unconscious, and was transferred to hospital, where he died later.
The reconstruction of the whole incident took place in two parts. On Monday investigators looked at the initial incident on the plane, when he had to be manhandled to make him leave. Present were scientists, lawyers, the examining magistrate and police. Chovanec was represented by a white dummy.
The plane was represented by a flight of stairs, and everything was filmed and recorded for the record.
Yesterday the action moved inside the airport to the police cell, and the scenes we have all now seen, which were leaked to the media. Chovanec can be seen hitting his head against the door and wall. He is then rushed by police and forced to the floor, and sat upon by one officer for about 15 minutes, while another makes a Hitler salute to everyone’s amusement.
Eventually Chovanec is silent. He will remain so until a hospital doctor calls time of death.
But the reconstruction had to take place despite the existence of the live footage, said lawyer Lennert Dierickx.
“Because the images are not complete,” lawyer Lennert Dierickx told De Morgen.
“They are without sound. Who said what, what orders were given among themselves. Those are also aspects that will now come into the picture.”
“This reconstruction showed the different moments in the cell, the doctor’s visit, the intervention of the agents and the mosquito,” said Mons prosecutor-general Ignacio de la Serna.
“Everyone was there and from what I hear everything went well,” he said.
“Over two days, the maximum was done,” said Vincent Fiasse, Liege prosecutor.
“Thanks to a verbal explanation of the events and what was seen in the images, we have an explanation of what happened.”
It will now be possible for the different parties – the family of Chovanec, the police involved and others – to call for additional investigation into various aspects of the case. The investigation could last for months yet.