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12th Aug 2022

Belgian prosecutor probes MEP over police racism complaint

  • Police say the entire incident at Brussels' Gare du Nord station was filmed by security cameras. The lawyer of MEP Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana said police allegations were 'just false' (Photo: European Parliament)

The Brussels public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation against German MEP Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, after she filed a "racist aggression" complaint against Belgian police officers and gave testimony in the European Parliament.

During a debate about racism, Herzberger-Fofana, who is black, told fellow MEPs that she was harassed and intimidated by Belgian police earlier this month (16 June) after she was filming nine police officers allegedly harassing two black teenagers at the train station Gare du Nord in Brussels.

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The officers involved said they were looking for two Eritreans who were previously accused of a robbery with an iron bar at the station.

The 71-year-old Green MEP filed a complaint saying that armed police pushed her against the wall and used physical force to make her stand with her legs open in what she described as very "humiliating".

"They grabbed my phone from my hands. Four police brutally pushed me against the wall, took my purse and pressed me to the wall, legs apart, and one policeman searched me, they did not believe I was an MEP," she said.

Belgian police have now launched an investigation into the incident, accusing the MEP of resisting and threatening its agents.

Following the request of the Brussels prosecutor, an official report was drawn up against Herzberger-Fofana for resisting and contempt, the spokeswoman of the Brussels North police zone Audrey Dereymaeker told EUobserver on Monday (29 June).

She also said that this was a "normal procedure", since there was allegedly a problem with Herzberger-Fofana's identity papers during the incident.

Police also said the entire incident was filmed by security cameras.

The Brussels prosecutor will decide whether or not to instigate legal proceedings to appear in court for defamation against the police.

Meanwhile, her own separate racism complaint is also being investigated by Belgian authorities.

The Brussels prosecutor office declined to comment when contacted by EUobserver.

Alexis Deswaef, Herzberger-Fofana's lawyer, said the police allegations were "just false," according to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard.

"That report for defamation is not consistent with reality - it's just false. We will prove in court that we are telling the truth," he said.

"There is also a witness, a professor of human rights from the University of Ghent, who also endorses our view of the matter," he added.

The president of the VSOA police union, Vincent Gilles, said that if the ongoing investigation proves that the officers were right, he expects an apology from MEPs.

"She was allowed to accuse police officers of racism without any objection. Consequently, if the investigation shows that the officers were acting correctly, I expect nothing less than all applauding parliamentarians to apologise to those officers," he said.

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