The Brussels prosecutor’s office has demanded a prison sentence of one year for a police officer who pepper-sprayed and beat up a Sudanese refugee in the centre of Brussels in April.
The incident took place in the vicinity of Place Anneessens. Mehdi Kassou, who is a spokesperson for the collective for refugee support, happened to be present.
“I saw a patrol approaching at full speed towards the young man,” he said. “The man fled, but the police were able to corner him by driving their van in front of him at an angle of 90 degrees. Ten police officers threw him brutally into the van. He did not understand what the officers told him.”
The van then drove off.
Later in the evening two youths came across the Sudanese man, and placed a video of his state online.
“He was crying and asking to have his eyes washed out with water, because he had just been pepper-sprayed,” the man’s lawyer told the court.
Lawyer Alexis De Swaef also stated he had later discovered the officer in charge of the squad had filed a false incident report. He then petitioned the prosecutor’s office to change the charge of assault to the more serious charge of inhuman treatment.
The prosecution is now demanding a sentence of one year for the officer on charges of assault and damage to property, after the officer allegedly smashed the man’s mobile phone.
“Some professions have an exemplary function, such as the police,” said prosecuting counsel Denis Goeman. “There was no reason whatsoever for the gratuitous violence used on the victim. This man was at no point aggressive. This was an unacceptable incident.”
For the defence, lawyer Sven Mary asked for his client to be allowed to go free, even if found guilty.
“He confesses that he used pepper spray and that it was wrong,” Mary said. “But he has been working for the intervention corps for 8 years, which carries out about 500 assignments per year. That’s thousands of checks, and there have only been five incidents. He is not a robot and lost control for a while.”
He also made plea for leniency on the grounds that working during the pandemic was difficult.
“That is no excuse for what he has done, he realises that and should be punished for that, but I ask the court to take into account his future.”