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NEWS ROUNDUP 16 Feb 2018

Minister who meddled with terrorism trial stokes fury

Marjan Justaert recommended by Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium

The lawyer for accused terrorist Salah Abdeslam says his client should go free because of a procedural irregularity. In doing so, he unleashed a passionate debate about the separation of powers.

Belgium Pattern recognition

Why this story matters:

A technicality that could void the trial of suspected terrorist Salah Abdeslam has evoked strong reactions on all sides of the political spectrum, but the comment that shocked most came from Minister of Interior Jan Jambon, who publicly stated that it was "incomprehensible" to him that Abdeslam's lawyer would attempt to get his client released.

Whenever high-ranking officials express themselves about an ongoing trial -- at the risk of influencing the judge -- most Belgians are dismayed.

Jambon claims he has the right to his opinion and that it's a question of "morality." According to the judicial world, he "doesn't know the role of a lawyer," goes "too far" and should "shut up."

It's not the first time that Jambon has blurted out a populist opinion. It's not clear if he does it on purpose, but while his "gut feelings" anger many, they also make him more popular in certain circles.

politics, scandal

Details from the story:

  • In Brussels, the trial against Salah Abdeslam has begun for his alleged involvement in the shooting of several police officers in the Brussels municipality of Vorst on March 15, 2016.
  • He is currently on remand in France as the surviving prime suspect of the Islamic State attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015.
  • His lawyer, Sven Mary, has called for the case against his client to be dropped due to a procedural mistake as one of the documents was drawn up in the "wrong language," a violation of Belgium's cherished language laws.
  • Between the emotional reactions of the public there was the Minister of Interior Affairs, Jan Jambon, who considered it incomprehensible that Mary requested the case be dropped.
  • The Bar, the magistrates, the High Council of Justice, political opponents with a juridical background were all angry at Jambon and his 'unacceptable' statements.
  • Some stakeholders of the judicial world noted a trend of less consideration by the government and parliament for the judiciary.

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