Ministers survive criticism over militant's escape

7th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

7 March 2006, BRUSSELS — Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx and Interior Minister Patrick Dewael survived a storm of criticism over the disappearance of Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal during a Parliament debate on Monday night.

7 March 2006

BRUSSELS — Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx and Interior Minister Patrick Dewael survived a storm of criticism over the disappearance of Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal during a Parliament debate on Monday night.

The attack against the two ministers was led by the opposition Christian Democrat CD&V, which had called for the resignation of both Dewael and Onkelinx. MP Tony Van Parys said both ministers had lost every trace of power and authority. 

Van Parys said he could not understand how neither minister had given "a shred or trace of responsibility" in their explanation about Erdal's disappearance.

The Interior Ministry's parliamentary commission discussed the disappearance of Erdal on Monday, some eight days after she vanished on the eve of her conviction of membership of the Turkish militant group DHKP-C.

On 28 February, the night before she was sentenced in absentia by Brugge Court to a four-year jail term, Erdal disappeared despite surveillance by the security service VS-SE. Her escape unleashed a storm of criticism.

And the central focus of the opposition's criticism on Monday was the unwillingness of government authorities to arrest Erdal in anticipation of her conviction. This was despite concerns she might flee ahead of the court ruling.

Dewael was also criticised for opting to continue his holiday instead of remaining in Belgium as the crisis developed. His travels from the French ski resort La Clusaz to a press conference in Brussels and back again cost taxpayers EUR10,000.

But the criticism fell on deaf ears as both Dewael and Onkelinx repeated there was no legal basis to place Erdal under preventative arrest. She had been summonsed to appear in court as a free person and every one is innocent until proven guilty. "Otherwise we live in a police state," Dewael said.

Questioned how it was possible that Erdal was allowed to live for six years above the Brussels office of the DHKP-C — which is included on the EU and US list of banned terrorist organisations — the answer was simple: that the group was only considered a terrorist organisation in Belgium since last week following the Brugge Court ruling.

And Onkelinx remained tightlipped about whether the VS-SE had raised the alarm last year about the surveillance or Erdal, stressing that any such information was considered classified.

Meanwhile, Dewael remained adamant that his decision to continue holidaying in France with his children was a decision he made as a father, not as a government minister.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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