Bus bashing shocks nation, suspects at large
26 June 2006, BRUSSELS — Belgium has been shocked by a new case of senseless violence after a 54-year-old man was beaten to death on an Antwerp bus over the weekend.
26 June 2006
BRUSSELS — Belgium has been shocked by a new case of senseless violence after a 54-year-old man was beaten to death on an Antwerp bus over the weekend.
The victim, Guide D., a train driver and father of two, became fed up with how six youths were arguing with each other and decided to intervene on Saturday night.
But the youths attacked the man and bashed him — he died at the scene. The youths pulled on the emergency stop and fled from the bus. They are still at large.
Antwerp police are hunting the suspects on allegations of manslaughter, a crime that carries a jail term of 20 to 30 years. The suspects are aged between 16 and 21.
Passengers on the bus have given police an accurate description of three of the suspects. A scant description was given of the three other suspects.
Police are also searching for two passengers who were travelling at the back of the bus.
The attack is the latest in a series of violent incidents following the racist murders in Antwerp and the mp3 murder in Brussels. Belgium has again reacted in shock.
"No amount of tolerance can be mustered for the brutal and senseless violence of these youths, irrespective of whether they are minors or not," Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said.
The Liberal VLD leader repeated his proposal to tighten legislation in which convicted criminals can be paroled after serving a third of their jail term.
"The time has come to amend the law so that culprits of severe crimes such as that on Saturday in Antwerp can be freed only after two-thirds of their sentence," Verhofstadt said.
Socialist SP.A chairman Johan Vande Lanotte is prepared to take up such a debate.
Saturday's violent attack took place on the bus line 23, which runs from Luchtbal to Het Zuid. The line is not operated by transport authority De Lijn but is instead a leased line.
That means that there are no safety officers on the bus because they are only deployed on bus lines operated by De Lijn.
Bus 23 is considered a 'risk line'. It is also frequently used by train staff to get to another depot.
"Because the line was dangerous, taxis were used for a while for train personnel. But this was scrapped for financial reasons," a spokesman for the Independent Union for Railway Personnel, Hugo De Rycke, said.
Personnel have requested improved safety measures and Antwerp Mayor Patrick Janssens, Flemish Transport Minister Kathleen Van Brempt, unions and De Lijn management will meet on Monday to discuss the issue.
Unions are demanding a second staff member to travel with the bus driver on busy routes and risk lines. The additional staff member should have the ability to issue fines and other penalties, they said.
Unions are also demanding security cameras on buses, but do no want their own security service.
ACV union spokesman for public services Freddy De Wilder said the buses operate in all four corners of Flanders, stressing it is more efficient to improve co-operation with local and federal police, a long-term demand from unions.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news