Belgian lawyers who are defending clients accused of terrorist offences are being refused entry to the United States, according to lawyer Dimitri De Béco. The ban extends to lawyers who have been involved in cases not involving the US, he added.
De Béco defended a terrorism suspect in 2016, in a case not involving the US, and recently found his permission to enter the US refused. When he asked why, he was informed that colleagues had also received a similar refusal.
The case in which De Béco was involved in 2016 had no US connection, nor did the case for which he was recently intent on travelling; nonetheless his entry to the US was disallowed.
“I longer have much desire to go there,” he said. “Nonetheless I find it strange for a lawyer to be placed on the same footing as his client.”
The ban, which appears to breach the right to a lawyer, even extended to Matthias Leys, who was designated by a Belgian court to defend pro bono a terror suspect, but despite being present for barely a 30-second hearing, fond himself on a no-fly list.
“The is the equivalent to likening a lawyer to his client,” said Michel Forges, head of the Brussels bar. “We defend a range of people, and do not necessarily line ourselves up with the views of our clients.”
Forges intends to bring the matter up with federal foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders.