Expatica news

Belgium left red faced after militant disappears

2 March 2006

BRUSSELS — Belgium has been left red faced by the disappearance of convicted Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal, who vanished while under surveillance of the intelligence service VS and the Interior Ministry.

Erdal had been under intensified surveillance in the past two weeks leading up to her conviction in Brugge Court on Tuesday for links to the Turkish militant group DHKP-C.

She was sentenced in absentia to four years jail and the court ordered her immediate apprehension. However, it was later revealed that Erdal had been missing for 24 hours. An international arrest warrant has now been issued.

And the news of Erdal’s disappearance dominated front page headlines in Belgian newspapers on Thursday. Turkish editorials and news broadcasts also paid heavy attention to the issue.

The DHKP-C militant had been staying in a Belgian government safehouse since the end of March 2000 after her arrest in September 1999 in Duinbergen on suspicion of illegal weapon possession and using a fake passport.

Erdal was placed under the supervision of the Interior Ministry after she applied for political asylum in July 2000. If she needed to leave her safehouse — for example to visit a doctor — Erdal needed to ask ministerial permission.

This occurred on various occasions in the past six years without any problem, but when security service officers went to arrest her on Monday night, Erdal had disappeared. House raids in Brussels at known DHKP-C addresses yielded nothing.

The Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry and federal public prosecution department were left pointing at each other for an official comment on Wednesday as Belgium was increasingly left red faced by the disappearance.

Eventually, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael and Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx confirmed in a joint statement on Wednesday night that Erdal had been under intensified supervision of the security service VS since 19 February. However, the VS lost sight of Erdal on Monday night.

Adding to the diplomatic pressure on Belgium, Turkey requested the extradition of Erdal on Monday. It is the third such request. Erdal’s lawyer has said the latest request could be due to the fact Turkey has abolished the death penalty.

However, Erdal’s extradition is not considered likely because she was arrested in relation to a “political offence”. The DKHP-C aims to overthrow the Turkish government and has already claimed responsibility for several violent attacks in Turkey.

Belgian opposition parties are now demanding answers from ministers Dewael and Onkelinx, stressing that both of them have made mistakes in handling the issue.

“This incident is damaging for the reputation of our country,” Christian Democrat CD&V MP Tony Van Parys said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news