The Brussels police and judiciary have apologized to the North African community. On 13 April, one day after the murder of 17 year old Joe Van Holsbeeck, the office of the public prosecutor issued a statement saying the murderers were two “North African youths.” This did not seem unlikely because Van Holsbeeck had been knifed and some Muslim youths are skilled with knives. Though it is illegal in Belgium to slaughter livestock at home, this happens on a very large scale in Brussels during the annual Muslim feast of sacrifice.
Yesterday evening, however, the police arrested a 16 year old Polish born youth for the murder. The second culprit, who actually knifed Joe Van Holsbeeck and who is also thought to be a Polish minor, has not been found yet. Belgian radio and television said tonight that he has probably fled to Poland, where the murder has led to widespread indignation.
Glenn Audenaert of the federal police expressed his “regret that shortly after the murder the North African community was accused. [...] I have to add, though, that the federal police never said that the culprits were certainly North African,” Audenaert said. Jos Colpin, the spokesman of the office of the public prosecutor in Brussels, apologized because his office did officially accuse “two North Africans” on 13 April, whereupon the terminology was adopted in the Belgian press (and also by The Brussels Journal on 19 April). “We did this on the basis of witnesses’ accounts,” Colpin explained, “because almosts all statements [by witnesses] mentioned North Africans or culprits with North African features.”
Earlier today The Brussels Journal received an email from a civil servant of the Belgian Department of Justice, reproaching us for having called the murderers of Joe Van Holsbeeck “North Africans.”
Meanwhile the federal police and the office of the public prosecutor have asked to remove all the pictures and images of the suspects from all websites. The media, written and visual, are no longer allowed to distribute the images and photos unless the faces have been made unrecognizable. In Belgian law it is forbidden to publish or distribute texts, drawings, photos and images of minors who are being prosecuted or who have been arrested.
Els Cleemput, the spokeswoman of the federal police, said: “The investigation of the Brussels federal judicial police has revealed that the two suspects on the video images are minors. Distributing the images is forbidden and they have already been removed from the website of the federal police.”