'Eccentric' suspends Cools killing trial
17 November 2003, LIEGE – The trial of the alleged organisers of the murder of former Belgian deputy prime minister Andre Cools, already dogged by delays and fugitive defendants, was on Monday again suspended after a bizare move to invalidate the court's presiding judge.
17 November 2003
LIEGE – The trial of the alleged organisers of the murder of former Belgian deputy prime minister Andre Cools, already dogged by delays and fugitive defendants, was on Monday again suspended after a bizare move to invalidate the court's presiding judge.
Benito Francesconi, a former wine merchant described by the Belgian press as a provocateur specialised in disturbing Belgian judicial proceedings, lodged a civil suit arguing the incompetence of judge Luc Lambrecht, who immediately announced the suspension of hearings.
Belgian daily Le Soir said Francesconi is "a specialist" in finding legal loopholes for delaying trials, which he practices as part of a campaign against what he calls "judicial manipulations". There was no reason given for his move to interrupt the Cools trial.
Lambrecht said the suit made it improper to continue with the case until the Belgian Appeals Court judged the validity of the suit against him. The court is suspended until Wednesday.
The move outraged civil parties to the trial, which has enetered a crucial stage in proceedings. Two men already sentenced for carrying out the murder Cools were due to testify this week after protracted diplomatic negotiations with Tunisia, where they are jailed, to allow them tio travel to Belgium.
"I am furious", Cools' former partner, Marie-Helene Joiret, told reporters Monday. "An eccentric clown who's a psychiatric case turns up and blocks the wheels of the trial once more. This is a fantasy tale."
The trial is of eight men accused of planning the murder of Cools in Liege in 1991, when the leading Socialist politician was shot dead outside Joiret's house in a suburb of Liege.
Two of the defendants are on the run, while another interrupted the trial earlier this month after turning up at the court unexpectedly from hiding in Italy.
The proceedings have been dogged by protracted legal delays, the ill health of one of the defendants and diplomatic negotiations for the testimony of the two Tunisians, sentenced in Tunisia in 1998 to 25-year jail terms for carrying out the killing.
The investigation into the murder has exposed a series of corruption scandals causing the resignation of four Belgian ministers and of Nato secretary-general Willy Claes.
All eight defendants come from the Italian community in Liege.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Belgian news