Cools killing ‘brains’ jailed 20 years
8 January 2004
BRUSSELS – The six defendants found guilty of masterminding the murder of Belgian deputy prime minister Andre Cools in 1991 were sentenced late Wednesday night to prison terms of between five and 20 years.
“Justice has been done,” commented Mr Dehousse, lawyer to the Cools family, after the verdict was announced.
Richard Taxquet and Pino Di Mauro, the personal secretary and chauffeur of deceased Walloon politician Alain Van der Biest, were both sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The senior prosecuting lawyer Marianne Lejeune had demanded life imprisonment for the two men, taking into account the 1998 sentences against two Tunisian nationals who each received 25 years imprisonment for carrying out the killing and the attempted murder of Cools’ girlfriend, Helene Joiret.
“I don’t understand how their sentence can be lower than that of the Tunisians – they were holding the weapons but the arm belonged to Di Mauro and the head to Taxquet,” she said.
Two defendants absent from the trial and believed to be hiding in Italy, Domenico Castellino and Cosimo Solazzo, were also sentenced to 20 years in prison. A warrant has been issued for their arrest.
Luigi Contrino and Carlo Todarello, who had helped the authorities with their investigation, were both sentenced to five years in prison. Todarello turned to the Cools family in closing remarks and said “I wanted to say sorry. I didn’t know anything. All I knew, I knew afterwards,” Le Soir reported.
Taxquet’s uncle, Silvio De Benedictis, and his acquaintance Mauro De Santis were acquitted. Both their lawyers were moved to tears when the verdict was announced.
“My innocence has finally been proven after such a long battle,” De Santis told reporters after the verdict was announced.
The trial was dogged by protracted legal delays, the ill health of one of the defendants, the fugitive absence of three others and diplomatic negotiations for the testimony of the two Tunisian gunmen.
The lengthy judicial investigation preceding the trial exposed a series of corruption scandals in Belgium, causing the resignation of four of the country’s ministers and that of Nato secretary-general Willy Claes.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Belgian news