18th Apr 2021

Stern office in Brussels raided by Belgian police

The Brussels editor of German magazine Stern was released from police custody on Friday.

His release came after ten hours of questioning, said Stern's editor Norbert Höfler.

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Mr Tillack was taken into police custody on Friday morning (19 March) after the police raided his office.

The investigation was to do with an allegation of bribery in connection with a case the German journalist wrote about in 2002.

His articles covered alleged irregularities that had been raised by an EU official, Paul van Buitenen, and the related inquiries carried out by the Commission’s anti-fraud office OLAF – and were based on confidential documents.

"Stern requests the Belgian authorities to immediately deliver Hans-Martin Tillack’s materials", said Mr Höfler to this news-site.

According to Mr Höfler, Mr Tillack’s home was searched by the police, who confiscated material on paper, computers and cell-phones.

Mr Tillack was interrogated without being in touch with his lawyer.

Under Belgian law, a lawyer is not allowed to be present during questioning on the first day of police custody, said Mr Tillack’s lawyer.

Well-known in Brussels

Mr Tillack is well-known in Brussels media circles. He was the first journalist to report the investigations into the irregularities of the EU statistical arm, Eurostat, which led to the removal of the responsible officials.

He has lately run stories on MEPs allegedly falsifying signatures qualifying for daily allowances and MEPs employing their wives and family members.

Renate Schröder, Director of the International Federation of Journalists in Brussels, said that Belgian law does not secure journalists' right to protect their sources.

In 1996, a number of Belgian media had their offices and private homes raided by police.

This case was brought to the Court of Human Rights, who recommended that Belgium introduce proper legislation and secure the protection of sources.

"The right of journalists to protect their sources is a cornerstone of press freedom", Ms Schröder told the EUobserver.

The European Commission said that they were not aware of the incident but they would look into it.

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The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has published an unprecedented sharp criticism of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) for maladministration, because it failed to withdraw allegations of bribery against a journalist.

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The German judiciary has started an investigation into Franz-Hermann Brüner, the director of EU anti-fraud office OLAF, for alleged defamation and libel, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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