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Slovakian government demands EU investigation of death at Charleroi Airport
Slovakia’s parliament has demanded that the European Union investigate Belgium’s handling of the Jozef Chovanec case. Chovanec was a Slovakian citizen who died in a police cell at Charleroi Airport in 2018.
The Slovakian people are furious at the way Chovanec was treated and that the case is still ongoing two-and-a-half years later. Video footage seen only last month reveals the police putting a blanket over Chovanec’s head, which had suffered a severe injury, and sitting on him for more than 15 minutes. Police are seen laughing, and one gives a Nazi salute.
Witnesses report that Chovanec, 38, appeared confused upon boarding the plane back to his homeland at Charleroi Airport in February of 2018. He was removed from the plane and immediately pushed to the ground by several police officers. He was taken to a cell, where he injured his head badly by slamming it into a door.
Emergency medical workers apparently also made disparaging remarks when giving Chovanec a sedative. He suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to the hospital unconscious, where he lay in a coma for three days until he died.
‘This should never happen in the European Union’
Slovak MEPs also penned a letter to Marc De Mesmaeker, commissioner-general of the federal police. “We are convinced that such a police intervention should never happen in the European Union,” read the letter, “certainly not in the 21st century and certainly not in the political and diplomatic heart of Europe.”
Also yesterday, Flemish broadcaster VRT aired an interview with Chovanec’s widow, who is convinced that Belgium was trying to cover up her husband’s death. She can find no other explanation for why the investigation into the death and the police’s conduct has carried on for 2.5 years.
“I’m pretty sure he died in the cell,” Henrieta Chovancova told VRT. “I don’t believe he died of a heart attack. I think he was suffocated by the police. The heart attack was just an excuse to cover everything up.”
Public prosecutor responds
The public prosecutor in Mons, reacting for the first time since the video came to light two weeks ago, released a press release this morning saying that there was no evidence that Chovanec died in the police cell. The statement minimalised the video, saying that it had to be placed in context, and that there was no plan at this point to charge any police officers with any crimes. The investigation is still ongoing, it confirmed.
“It is the insanity of the day,” when it comes to this case, responded Ann Van de Steen, the Belgian lawyer representing the Slovakian family. “The public prosecutor has now stated that nothing at all went wrong. Am I supposed to close the case then?”
As for the Slovakian parliament’s demand to the EU, there is little chance that it will be satisfied, as the European Commission rarely becomes involved in investigations at the national level. It is thought that the Slovak parliament wanted to make it clear, however, that it has no faith that justice will be served in Belgium.