The state prosecution service at the court of cassation sees no reason why the Skype case should be heard in front of a court other than the criminal court in Mechelen, pointed out the federal prosecutor at a hearing on Tuesday. Skype’s defence team reckons that the Mechelen court is biased, after a magistrate in charge of press communications spoke about the case. A ruling is expected for this afternoon. As part of an investigation into the Armenian criminal underworld by judicial authorities in Mechelen in 2012, investigators noticed that 2 suspects used Skype to talk about specific business. The investigating judge requested access to these conversations, but the company refused, saying that as it was not a Belgian phone operator it should not be subject to Belgian legislation. According to the Mechelen prosecutor, who launched an investigation, this could be contrary to the law on telecommunications.
The magistrate in charge of press communications then spoke to the press about the case. “His statements are unacceptable, coming from a member of the department of public prosecution,” argues Frédéric Thiebaut, Skype’s attorney. “Not only did he give details about the charges, but he also talked in detail about whether or not our client is guilty. At the very least the Mechelen court appeared unable to give an impartial ruling in this case after this intervention.”
“Even if the magistrate in charge of press communications seemed to defy the presumption of innocence, this does not mean that no judge from our court can carry out their work fairly,” retorts the federal prosecutor. “The magistrate in charge of press communications does not represent the court nor individual magistrates within the court.”