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Belgian Policeman to Go on Trial over Death of Kurdish Toddler

Belgian Policeman to Go on Trial over Death of Kurdish Toddler

Sunday, 22 November, 2020 - 07:00
An ambulance car is seen on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Belgium's approach to policing undocumented migration will be in the dock Monday when an officer goes on trial over the shooting death of a two-year-old Kurdish girl.

Mawda was fatally wounded in May 2018 when a policeman opened fire on a van being driven across Belgium by traffickers taking migrants from the continent to Britain.

The officer said he had intended to shoot out a tire to halt the suspect vehicle during a high speed chase, but his car swerved violently and the bullet went astray.

The tragedy caused a scandal in Belgium and, for rights activists, became a symbol of the dangers posed by the "criminalization" of irregular migration.

The officer who fired the fatal shot, reportedly a 40-something father-of-two with eight years of experience in the police, has not been publicly named, AFP reported.

But he faces an involuntary homicide charge and will appear in court in the city of Mons alongside two Iraqi Kurds, the driver of the van and the alleged people smuggler.

The officer does not deny he drew and fired his gun to halt the fleeing vehicle, but insists he did not know migrants were on board.

He says he felt "wiped out" when he discovered little Mawda had received a fatal head wound, crouched with her parents behind the driver.

"It's a horror to carry the image of someone responsible for the death of a child," his lawyer Laurent Kennes told AFP.

"He feels that everything has fallen on him, that he has to carry the errors of the state prosecutors, of migration policy."

Mawda's parents, who left Iraq in 2015 and had intended to head to Britain, settled in Belgium after her death, granted leave to remain on humanitarian grounds.

They will be represented at the two-day hearing by three lawyers.

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