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President of Belgian senate under fire

Published on 14/03/2005

14 March 2005

BRUSSELS – The socialist president of the Belgian senate has been accused of trying to influence a judge.

On Monday, the Belgian media reported that Anne-Marie Lizin, who is also a bourgmestre in Huy, has apologised to the judge for writing to her about a case.

However, Lizin and her PS colleagues have so far ruled out the possibility that she will resign over the matter or answer questions on it in the senate.

The scandal broke in the Saturday edition of the tabloid La Derniere Heure.

The paper alleged that Lizin had written to the judge asking her to re-examine a case concerning a child minder.

The judge was due to hear the case last Wednesday.

Addressing the judge in the informal ‘tu’ form in French, Lizin wrote: “I would be very pleased if you could re-examine the development of the enclosed case of Madame S.”

Over the weekend, Lizin said she had written to the judge’s home to apologise for the letter.

She believes, though, that she has not breached the constitutional separation between politicians who make laws and the judges who interprete them.

She added that she hardly knew the judge concerned.

Lizin also stated she systematically passes on the files of people who have contacted her about legal cases and said that she did not intend to influence the judge’s decision.

The political parties Ecolo, the CDH, SP.A, the CD&V and the MR all criticised the senator and called for her to explain herself in the senate.

In a statement, the centre-right Mouvement Reformateur said it was “particularly shocked by the way in which, despite the unanimous reactions expressed since Saturday, Ms Lizin is minimising the facts and seems to confirm the habitual nature of this move and is attempting to deny that she acted, as her signature shows, both as bourgmestre and senate president, while in both roles the act was unacceptable”.

The head of the PS, Elio Di Rupo, told the media at the weekend, that Lizin would not resign from the senate. Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, the PS minister-president of the Wallon parliament, said too big a deal was being made of the matter.

However, PS Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx, said Lizin’s letter did breach rules designed to protect “the separation of powers”and could only be seen as “pressure on a judge”.

She said the judge had acted correctly in making no attempt to contact Lizin and in making the letter public.

PS Philippe Courard, the Interior Affairs and Public Functions Minister, has asked his cabinet to investigate the case in order “to determine whether a mistake was made and if penalties are necessary”.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news