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Investigation begins into the death of a 23-year-old man after arrest

Police pictured outside the Brussels North station (Noordstation - Gare du Nord). (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
10:01 12/01/2021

An investigation has been launched into the death of a 23-year-old Brussels man after a police intervention at the capital’s Gare du Nord on Saturday night.

The young man, identified only by his first name Ibrahima in current reports, lost consciousness in police custody after being arrested at approximately 19.00 and died in hospital at 20.22. An autopsy and toxicology analysis were requested to establish the cause of his death. His family have been told that he died after suffering a cardiac arrest.

His relatives have questioned the circumstances of his arrest and the cause of his death and have called for a demonstration in front of the police station where he was held this Wednesday.

Ibrahima was part of a group of young people who, according to the Brussels Prosecutor's Office, "gathered in Place du Nord, contravening the measures currently in place in the context of the health crisis" on Saturday night. They were approached by police officers enforcing pandemic regulations.

Unverified reports suggest that Ibrahima began filming the police intervention on his mobile phone and when challenged by officers, he fled the scene. He was apprehended, arrested and taken into custody. He then allegedly suffered the first of two heart attacks at the police station before being resuscitated. The police officers present then called in the emergency services. An ambulance and a SMUR team (Mobile Emergency and Resuscitation Service) were mobilised and Ibrahima was taken to hospital where he later died.

The reports, neither confirmed nor denied as yet by the Prosecutor’s Office, claim the young man’s family was informed of his death at around 2.30 in the morning by police officers who came to their home, telling them "that Ibrahima had been arrested during the curfew", according to Ibrahima's younger sister, Aissatou, 17. After contacting several hospitals in Brussels, they found out that Ibrahima’s body was at Saint-Jean hospital. The family arrived at the hospital at about 5.30 in the morning.

"We were told that he died in the ambulance after a second heart attack,” Aissatou told reporters. “The body could not be seen until the autopsy was performed. We were just told that he had bruises due to his resuscitation at the police station."

Despite claims that Ibrahima had been arrested during the 22.00-6.00 Brussels curfew, reports claim that the emergency room doctor who attended him reportedly confirmed the time of death as 20.22, before curfew time and contrary to what police had told the family.

After the Brussels prosecutor's office became involved, the investigation was immediately passed to Committee P, the Permanent Oversight Committee on the Police Services. A medical examiner was then appointed to carry out an autopsy and toxicology reports. The prosecutor's office also requested that all CCTV footage from the police station and the scene of the arrest, be surrendered to the investigation and analysed.

"The investigation is underway to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the death of this young man," said a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office.

Written by Nick Amies