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Couple charged with beating child to death in Belgium

A Belgian couple was charged on Tuesday with beating their four-year-old son to death following a high-profile year-long inquiry that began after his body was found in a river.

Mohamed and Naima Jratlou were charged with delivering blows and voluntary injuries that led to the “unintentional” death of their son Younes, said Marie-Claude Maertens, prosecutor in the western town of Tournai.

The parents were remanded in custody, Maertens told a news conference, adding that the parents did not admit being responsible for the toddler’s death.

“They denied giving the blows,” the prosecutor said.

Forensics experts determined that the child suffocated to death, she said. A hand mark was found on the child’s face.

Younes disappeared from the family home in the village of Bizet, near the French border, on the evening of October 25, 2009.

His older brother, now aged 11, testified last year that Younes had fled the home through an open door during a fight between their parents.

His body was found on November 11 in the Lys river, 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from his home.

Mohamed Jratlou, a middle-aged man who denied all involvement in press interviews, has been the subject of media speculation about his involvement in the boy’s disappearance and was interrogated by investigators several times, but never charged until now.

Claiming his innocence, he told reporters in November 2009 that his son was kidnapped and suffocated to death.