Belgian police arrest Iranian after double courtroom slaying
Belgian police have arrested a suspect after a man pulled a gun during a Brussels court hearing and shot dead a woman judge and court clerk before fleeing, the public prosecutor's office said Friday.
“A suspect has been questioned and identified,” Jean-Jacques Meilleur, spokesman for the Brussels public prosecutor, told AFP after Thursday’s double murder.
A judicial source said that the suspect was a 47-year-old Iranian man who had been identified by witnesses of the courtroom drama that shook Belgium. He reportedly said he had been motivated by revenge.
The prosecutor’s office would hold a press conference at 0900 GMT.
Police approached the man in a Brussels park on Thursday evening in order to check his identity, but he pulled out a gun and began shooting in the air, the source said.
The man was wounded by police, arrested, and later identified as a suspect in the killings.
On Thursday morning a man, who had been present throughout the hearing, “pulled out a firearm, a revolver, and fired at the judge and her clerk, killing both,” said Jean-Jacques Meilleur, spokesman for the Brussels public prosecutor.
The tribunal had been hearing a family and neighbour dispute case when the shooting happened. The tribunal is close to the imposing Palace of Justice in the heart of the Belgian capital.
The assailant “was briefly pursued by one of the lawyers present but he managed to flee on foot down on of the roads in the region,” Meilleur added. A major search was launched for the gunman.
The victims were 60-year-old magistrate Isabelle Brandon and her court clerk Andre Bellemans.
A minute’s silence was observed by judges and lawyers in the Palace of Justice later in honour of their deceased colleagues, with some members of the judiciary visibly shocked at the events.
Security in judicial buildings and prisons in Belgium has long been a source of concern, with many escapes in recent years.
Last August, masked men helped three suspects escape the Palace of Justice, taking prison guards hostage in the process.
Around the same time there was a spectacular escape from a prison in the north with the use of a hijacked helicopter.
Just days ahead of snap legislative elections on June 13, the justice minister said he would stop campaigning and called for a debate on security, while ruling out placing security cameras in all courtrooms.