- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Brussels shooting: Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne resigns
Belgium’s justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne has resigned after it emerged that the extremist responsible for killing two Swedish men had been subject to an extradition demand by Tunisia in 2022, report local media.
At a press conference on Friday evening, Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) explained that new elements had come to light during the investigation into Abdesalem Lassoued, who had been denied asylum in Belgium two years ago.
“This morning at nine o’clock, I remarked the following elements: on 15 August, 2022, there was an extradition demand by Tunisia for this man. This demand was transmitted on 1 September, as it should have been, by the justice expert at the Brussels prosecutor’s office. The magistrate in charge did not follow up on this extradition demand and the dossier was not acted upon,” said the minister.
Explaining why he had submitted his resignation to prime minister Alexandre De Croo, Van Quickenborne said: “It’s an individual error. A monumental error. An unacceptable error. An error with dramatic consequences.”
While recognising the individual error by the magistrate, the justice minister took full responsibility. “I am not looking for any excuses. I think it’s my duty,” he said of his decision to stand down.
“This new information coming from the prosecutors hits me deeply as I have done everything possible to improve the judicial system,” he added.
Van Quickenborne expressed his deepest apologies on behalf of the judicial system to the victims and their loved ones as well as the Swedish people and fellow Belgian citizens.
Lassoued imprisoned in Tunisia
Abdesalem Lassoued, who was fatally shot by police in Brussels on 17 October, had received a 26-year prison sentence in Tunisia, according to Belga.
The press agency said the man was convicted in his country of origin in 2005 for attempted murder, but was already imprisoned for other crimes. He reportedly escaped from prison in 2011, after which he began travelling around Europe.
The 45-year-old lodged asylum applications in Norway, Sweden, Italy and Belgium, according to official documents. After his asylum request was rejected by Belgium in 2020, he remained illegally in the country.
Lassoued was also known to police as he was suspected of being involved in human trafficking and a risk to state security.
Belgian authorities received information by an unidentified foreign government suggesting that he had been radicalised and intended to travel abroad to fight in a holy war. As security services were unable to establish this, he was not placed on OCAD’s list of terror suspects.
The former director of Belgium’s coordinating body for threat analysis (OCAD) Paul Van Tigchelt has been appointed the country’s new justice minister.
He was received by King Philippe at the royal palace in Brussels on Sunday afternoon and sworn in as deputy prime minister and minister of justice and the North Sea, reports RTBF.
Since 2020, Van Tigchelt had held the position of deputy chief of staff in charge of justice and security within the Van Quickenborne cabinet.
Prior to his role at OCAD, he was deputy public prosecutor in Antwerp. From 2003 to 2008, he held the position of deputy chief of staff and spokesperson for previous interior minister Patrick Dewael (Open VLD).
This article was updated on 22 October following the announcement of Paul Van Tigchelt’s appointment.
Photo: Vincent Van Quickenborne announces his resignation to media on 20 October ©Belga/Hatim Kaghat