Policeman killed in Schaerbeek: questions remain on communication between the police and the hospital

It is confirmed, from the elements, incomplete due to the ongoing judicial inquiry, mentioned in the report of the General Prosecutor of Brussels, that there were few exchanges between the police and the staff of the Cliniques Saint-Luc in subject of the author of the attack committed a few hours later, last Thursday against two police officers, it emerged Monday from the long intervention of the Minister of Justice in committee of the House.

Yassine M. attacked two police officers with knives on Thursday evening, in the Gare du Nord district of Brussels, causing the death of one of them and seriously injuring the other. The Ministers of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld), and of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), were questioned on Monday by the deputies on the facts and their context.

The decision of the prosecution was not taken “in a hurry”

“The public prosecutor’s office did not take its decision in a hurry. It handled the communication from the Brussels North police zone “in a professional and responsible manner”, indicated the Minister of Justice, citing the report sent, at his request, by the Prosecutor General of Brussels Johan Delmulle.This document confirms that throughout the morning of Thursday, there was not a single moment of aggression or argument or physical violence towards the police. This will not be the case either during the transfer to the Saint-Luc hospital, or to the hospital itself.Several police officers from the Brussels North area have been invited by the prosecution to testify to what they saw and heard in the head of Yassine M.

“The report underlines that within the Brussels public prosecutor’s office, they went directly to the next level and consulted with other specialized magistrates. Thus, the final decision of the magistrate was informed by a second and a third look on the facts by specialists in the field Not only was relied on the information obtained directly from the police station, but, on its own initiative, the radicalization cell of the former place of residence was also questioned. There were also legal consultations within the prosecution to find out if the facts could be qualified as a criminal offence,” said Vincent Van Quickenborne, during his long explanation.

What happened when the suspect left Saint-Luc?

According to this report, the radicalism cell of the prosecution checked the common database which no longer mentions recent files or worrying information about Yassine M. since his release in 2019. The Minister of Justice insisted on the imperative need to preserve the judicial investigation and its progress with a view to a “probable trial in the Court of Assizes”.

Neither the Minister of Justice nor the Minister of the Interior was thus able or willing to provide any information on what happened between the time the alleged perpetrator left the Cliniques Saint-Luc at the end of the morning and the terrorist act of the early evening. Nothing either, at the current stage, on the absence or not of exchanges of information between the police and the hospital on the dangerousness of the one who was presented there as a psychiatric patient admitted on a voluntary basis between the times of the departure of Yassine M. from the hospital and his acting out.

The judicial past of Yassine M.

The minister also mentioned the judicial past of Yassine M., convicted in 2010 of robbery with violence and theft with a weapon which earned him a stay in several prisons where he became radicalized. He was notably detained in the deradicalization section of the prisons of Ittre (from 29/08/2016 to 09/06/2017) and Hasselt (from 11/03/2018 to 10/07/2019).

Since 2017, he has been on the list of “Homegrown Terrorist Fighters, terrorist fighters of local origin, of the Coordination Body for Threat Analysis (OCAM). Various information presented him as a radicalized person, proselytizing and likely to take action for a religious reason. In February 2020, his status was upgraded to Potentially Violent Extremist status. He was monitored in this capacity by the Brussels Local Radicalism Task Force, where his name was mentioned again on October 6, 2020.

The role of socio-preventive assistance

Over time, the focus has been on socio-preventive assistance, which has been deployed in his case. Indeed, several socio-preventive services intervened during and after the detention, first the competent Flemish services, then the “Centre for Assistance and Support for anyone concerned by Radicalism and Violent Extremism” (CAPREV) dependent on the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and the BRAVVO asbl which depends on the City of Brussels.

“On this socio-preventive follow-up, the security services, State Security, the federal police or the OCAM receive no feedback or certainly no systematic feedback. There have been discussions between OCAM and the services of the socio-preventive sector on this subject, but professional secrecy is essential for these services. They fear being exploited by the security services”, said the Minister, which several deputies, in particular MR and Engagés, did not fail to deplore.

Follow-up to recommendations deemed insufficient

Many deputies of the Justice-Interior Joint Committee have more broadly expressed the wish for a more in-depth examination of the shortcomings observed in this case with regard, in particular, to the recommendations of the Attacks Committee.

The follow-up to these recommendations was considered insufficient by several members of the opposition. “Are we finally going to closely follow the recommendations of the attack commission”, thus asked Georges Dallemand (Les Engagés). According to him, questions asked six years ago (Editor’s note: the day after the attacks in Brussels and Zaventem) remain but “we have not succeeded in changing things”. Same story on the side of Koen Metsu (N-VA).

The MR steps up

François De Smet (DéFI) considered that everyone had respected their prerogatives but had not known what to do with the alleged perpetrator due to lack of monitoring of the terrorist threat, resources for the capital’s police, and mental health structures. .

In the majority, the MR was the most critical. For Philippe Pivin and Denis Ducarme, the questions that arose after the attacks in terms, in particular, of the exchange of information remain. The two agents wondered if Yassin M. had not been considered a “slightly unbalanced fellow” when there were legal tools to immobilize a character who turned out to be much more dangerous.

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