Ministers stand shoulder-to-shoulder
3 March 2006, BRUSSELS — Belgium's Justice and Interior ministers were unable at a joint press conference on Thursday night to fully explain how Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal was able to escape while under surveillance of the nation's security service VS-SE.
3 March 2006
BRUSSELS — Belgium's Justice and Interior ministers were unable at a joint press conference on Thursday night to fully explain how Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal was able to escape while under surveillance of the nation's security service VS-SE.
Confronted with questions by Belgian and Turkish journalists about how a known terrorist could be allowed to escape, Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx stressed that Erdal had not been a terrorist until 28 February.
On that date, Erdal was convicted in absentia by Brugge Court of membership of a criminal group, the left-wing Turkish militant group DHKP-C or the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front.
Prior to the court's ruling, Laurette said Erdal had been considered a "free and innocent person". Security services could only keep her under surveillance, but not arrest her.
The minister refused to answer questions about how Erdal managed to escape, saying that those questions were part of a confidential dossier that will be sent to the police and intelligence service supervisory committees for investigation.
However, she said that VS-SE agents had recently been keeping Erdal under 24-hour surveillance on orders from the federal government's crisis centre, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.
The shadow operation was carried out by eight agents divided into three teams and another eight agents in four vehicles — a statement that sparked disbelief among Turkish journalists amazed that Erdal still managed to disappear.
It is believed that Erdal escaped in a car with an accomplice specialised in shaking off surveillance, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported. An international arrest warrant has since been issued.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael sat shoulder-to-shoulder on Thursday with Onkelinx — who is politically responsible for the VS-SE — and said the incident was a matter of shared responsibility.
Dewael had cut short a ski holiday in France to deal with the crisis and said he understood public anger about Erdal's disappearance. However, he stressed that the federal government had done everything legally possible.
"In the coming days I will fight against the perception that Erdal escaped. She was not a prisoner, but a free person," he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news