Black German MEP victim of Belgian 'police violence'


Brussels (AFP)

A German member of the European Parliament complained Wednesday she had been treated in a violent and humiliating way by Belgian police, on the eve of a debate on racism.

A spokeswoman for the Belgian police disputed her account of the incident but confirmed she had been searched after interfering during an identity check of two men and said she was to be investigated for insulting officers.

"I was a victim of police violence on the behalf of the Belgian police," 71-year-old Pierrette Herzenberger-Fofana, who represents The Greens, told the Brussels assembly.

"I consider that an act of discrimination of a racist tendency," said Herzenberger-Fofana, who was born in Bamako, Mali.

The MEP said that on the day before the debate, called to discuss racism in the wake of global protests against a US police killing, she had arrived at Brussels Gare du Nord railway station.

"I saw nine police officers harassing two young black men. I took out my phone and took a photo of the scene, which is legal. The police approached and snatched my phone," she said.

"Four of the nine armed police brutally pushed me against a wall. They violently grabbed my bag. They pushed me against a wall, legs apart and an officer wanted to search me.

- Police action 'intolerable' -

"They treated me in a humiliating way. When I told them I was a member of the European Parliament, they did not believe me."

Audrey Dereymaeker, a police spokeswoman, said Herzenberger-Fofana had wanted to interfere in an identity check of two suspects.

"She filmed the scene and at first refused to identify herself when we asked her to, later she wanted to show her papers," she said, insisting: "It happened without violence."

The spokeswoman confirmed the MEP had been searched by a female officer -- "in the usual procedure" -- and had been temporarily deprived of her liberty.

Police have lodged a complaint with prosecutors alleging she had showed contempt for the officers.

Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian MEP and the head of Herzenberger-Fofana's Green group, said she had committed no offence and described the police action as "intolerable."

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was in parliament for the debate but did not address the German MEP's complaint directly.

She did however insist that there is "no place in our union for racism or any form of discrimination."