Belgium and Slovakia will collaborate in Chovanec death probe
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Belgium and Slovakia will collaborate in Chovanec death probe

Belgium and Slovakia have agreed to fully cooperate and assist each other in the investigation into the controversial death of a Slovak national following an arrest by Belgian police.

Judicial authorities from both countries met in Brussels at the start of the week in talks organised by the EU authority on cross-border cooperation on criminal justice, Eurojust.

“In order to objectively clarify the cause of Jozef Chovanec’s fatal arrest and the circumstances prior to the whole incident, both parties agreed to cooperate with each other,” a Eurojust press release read.

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The meeting comes as Slovak authorities pile the pressure on Belgium to speed up work on the case of Jozef Chovanec, a Slovak national who died following a hard-handed and controversial arrest in Charleroi Airport in 2018.

Last week, Peter Kormúth, the Slovak ambassador to Belgium, said that there had still not been any concrete results from the investigation since prosecutors launched it in 2018.

“We expect transparency from the Belgian authorities, Slovak citizens expect the whole truth to be uncovered in this case,” Kormúth said in an address to a parliamentary committee reviewing the case.

In a phone call, Eurojust spokesman Ton Van Lierop declined to provide more details on the talks because of the ongoing nature of the investigation.

He also declined to comment on an earlier request from Slovakia to send an envoy to Belgium to assist in the investigation.

The meeting at Eurojust took place at the request of both member states and Van Lierop said that both countries “have been in touch, will continue to stay in touch and have agreed to mutual legal and judicial assistance” to make the case move forward.

“The Belgian delegation has accepted the offer of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Slovak Republic to execute promptly all future requests for mutual legal assistance on the territory of Slovakia,” the press release read.

Chovanec’s death in 2018 returned to the spotlight and landed several top federal police, law enforcement officials and federal ministers in hot water after footage of his arrest was released to the media.

The footage, which shows several police officers manhandling a visibly unstable Chovanec and laughing at one officer performing a Nazi salute, caused international outrage and prompted renewed calls for justice and accusations that Belgian authorities were attempting to bury the case.

The case has recently been transferred to a court of appeals in Mons, who at the request of Chovanec’s family, will review whether the investigation was correctly executed.

Eurojust is the latest EU institution to be dragged into the Chovanec affair. Earlier, Slovak authorities had issued a largely symbolic call for the EU executive, who cannot interfere in national judicial manners, to launch an investigation, while the president of the EU parliament recently backed calls for the truth to come out.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times