Four accused of murdering Palestinian boy in Belgian asylum centre

Belgian authorities on Thursday charged four young Palestinian men with the murder of a nine-year-old Palestinian boy. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 April 2019
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Four accused of murdering Palestinian boy in Belgian asylum centre

BRUSSELS: Belgian authorities on Thursday charged four young Palestinian men with the murder of a nine-year-old Palestinian boy at an asylum-seekers' centre near Belgium's northern port city of Antwerp.
Officials said the boy, who had been staying with his mother in the Broechem centre, went missing late on Monday before a search turned up his lifeless body in a ditch on Wednesday.
The Antwerp's prosecutor's office said an investigating judge charged four of the five people who were arrested on Wednesday with his murder.
"The facts are qualified as hostage-taking and murder," the prosecutor's office in Antwerp said in a statement without confirming a news report the boy may have been kidnapped for ransom.
The accused are aged 19, 20, 21 and 24 years old, the prosecutor's office said, with spokesman Kristof Aerts confirming they are Palestinian. The fifth man arrested faces possible charges later Thursday.
The shocking case has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Charles Michel.
"An investigation will be conducted in a transparent and independent manner. The culprits must be punished," Michel wrote in a tweet earlier, offering his condolences after this "tragic death".
The boy, born in Lebanon but of Palestinian origin, had been staying with his 26-year-old mother in the Broechem asylum centre when he disappeared on Monday evening, Aerts said.
He was last seen riding his bike. A search operation found the boy's lifeless body in a ditch on the grounds of the reception centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Newspapers in the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders reported the boy died in a possible extortion case.
The daily Het Laatste Nieuws said the boy's aunt, who lived in the same centre, had received a threatening telephone text message: "100,000 euros or you will never again see Daniel alive."
The prosecutor's office did not confirm the report.
A source close to the prosecution told AFP that statements that the accused have given investigators "are not clear" and none of them has confessed to the alleged crimes.
Belgium, a country of about 11 million inhabitants, receives about 20,000 asylum seekers annually, many of whom come from conflict areas in the Middle East, according to the Fedasil agency website.


Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

In this handout photo taken and released by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Communication Department on July 19, 2019, Indian politician Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (2L) meets Sonbhadra massacre victims at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Trauma Centre in Varanasi. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019
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Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

  • Priyanka Gandhi’s protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families

NEW DELHI: A political standoff over detained Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi ended on Saturday after she was allowed to meet relatives of 10 people killed in a caste clash in the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress general secretary and sister of outgoing party president Rahul Gandhi was detained in Mirzapur on Friday while traveling to Sonbhadra to visit family members of 10 people shot and killed in a land dispute a day earlier.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Yogi Adityanath, detained Gandhi for violating the peace and stopped her from traveling further. The Congress leader then began a sit-in protest with her supporters at the Mirzapur guest house where she was held.
Her protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families. Television images showed Gandhi sitting in the dark after power and water supplies in the guest house were allegedly cut off by the local administration.
Her presence in the area, which also falls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency in Varanasi, galvanized Congress workers who staged protests across the state.
Early on Saturday, relatives of some of the victims visited the guest house to meet the 47-year-old leader of the Gandhi-Nehru family, India’s pre-eminent political dynasty.
“My objective has been served as I have met the victims of the shooting,” said Gandhi before calling off her protest.
“The responsibility for the Sonbhadra massacre lies with the Yogi government,” she said.
Gandhi told her supporters, “I will be back,” before flying to New Delhi.
The BJP has accused the Congress leader of playing politics over the shootings.
“Congress has a history of playing politics over dead bodies,” said Swatantra Dev Singh, BJP president in Uttar Pradesh.
“The drama should stop. That is what I will say to Priyanka. All the accused have been arrested, and the officials responsible have been suspended,” he said.
The fatal shootings in Sonbhadra, 800 km southeast of New Delhi, drew mainstream media attention only when the Congress leader arrived in the state.
Observers say that the killing of 10 socially marginalized and landless tribes people by members of the dominant caste has highlighted the fragile caste situation in India’s most populous state.
The people of Gond tribe have been working the disputed land for generations. According to reports, the village head wanted tribes people to vacate the farm land. This led to conflict, and on Friday more than 200 armed men attacked the helpless villagers, killing 10 and injuring several others.
Gandhi, who entered politics only a few months before the general elections in May this year, seized the opportunity to connect with the people.
For the BJP, Uttar Pradesh is the jewel in the crown. The state gave the party 62 of its 303 parliamentary seats, and it is determined to maintain its political grip.
Political analysts say that Gandhi is determined to revive the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh by 2022 when the state goes to the polls.
“Priyanka Gandhi handled the Sonbhadra incident in a mature way, exposing the ham-fisted attitude of the Yogi government,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based analyst and author.
“She also managed to expose the BJP’s class bias  and how the ruling party is protecting the interests of  dominant caste in the state,” said Mukhopadhyay.
“This incident gives the party a chance to go back to the people immediately after the huge loss in the elections,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News.
Lucknow-based political analyst Ram Dutt Tripathi said that Gandhi has “shown her courage as a political leader willing to fight administrative injustice.”
“Her detention was illegal and the Congress has high hopes that she can lead the revival of the party,” said Tripathi.
“It is unfortunate that the state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has not visited relatives of the victims so far and is putting restrictions on political opponents who want to stand with them,” he said.