Minister's careless talk 'hindered terror inquiries'

3rd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 November 2005, BRUSSELS — Careless talk from Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael hindered criminal investigations into the terrorist group GICM, the judiciary has claimed.

3 November 2005

BRUSSELS — Careless talk from Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael hindered criminal investigations into the terrorist group GICM, the judiciary has claimed.

Dewael revealed in March 2004 that members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) were being shadowed in Belgium. The minister made his comment despite an explicit request from the judiciary to keep quiet.  

The minister's comments forced the premature ending of surveillance operations, which were cut short a month ahead of planning, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Thursday.

The trial of 13 suspected members of the GICM terror network will start in Brussels later on Thursday.

The network is held responsible for bomb attacks in the Moroccan capital of Casablanca and the Saudi capital of Riyadh in May 2003 and in Madrid on 11 March last year. Some 271 people were killed in the attacks.

Pre-trial investigations started in November 2002 when the Belgian security service VS started shadowing suspected GICM member K. Bouloudo, 30, of Maaseik, in Limburg.

He was arrested in the Netherlands on 27 January last year after a routine traffic inspection. However, the Belgian judiciary decided to shadow the companions of Bouloudo for "another month of two".

"These companions were the key figures in the dossier, not Bouloudo. By shadowing them unnoticed we could identify still more terrorists," the judiciary said.

"In the interests of the investigation the federal public prosecution office asked Dewael not to disclose the operation."

However, on 17 March last year, Dewael spoke carelessly in the Parliament Commission for Interior Affairs.

Upon questioning by Flemish Interest MP Francis van den Eynde, Dewael said that those involved in the investigation of Bouloudo were under surveillance.

The revelations reached the broad public via the media and the companions of Bouloudo became suspicious. The judiciary claims there was a danger the suspects would flee the country and the surveillance had to be ended prematurely.

Some 20 house raids were then quickly carried out on 19 March last year in Maaseik, Brussels and Antwerp.

"Politicians don't understand how much damage such a disclosure can bring to an investigation which our people have worked on in difficult situations for years," the judiciary said.

Neither Dewael nor his staff were available for comment this week.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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