Attempts to lift the parliamentary immunity of Socialist Euro MP Marie Arena have been blocked by Belgium’s federal prosecutor, according to a prominent lawyer in the Qatargate case.
The newly appointed investigating judge, Aurélie Dejaiffe, wants Arena, a Belgian politician, to be investigated but has got nowhere with her request, it is claimed.
Lawyer Maxim Töller, who defends Qatargate accused Marc Tarabella, says the Qatargate investigation is being deliberately obstructed.
Belgium’s federal public prosecutor, the sole authority with the power to relay requests to the European Parliament, has allegedly refused to forward Dejaiffe’s immunity request: a “real scandal”, according to Töller, who spoke to the Sudinfo news group.
Töller is known for bringing down the former investigating judge, Michel Claise, by exposing ties between Claise’s son and Marie Arena’s son. Claise, as a consequence, recused himself.
The lawyer highlighted a pivotal moment in the investigation: the signing of a plea deal with Pier Antonio Panzeri, the alleged mastermind behind the European Parliament corruption case.
Töller contends that secret, unwritten agreements between the prosecutor and Panzeri raise serious legal concerns. These agreements purportedly involve the non-prosecution of Panzeri’s family members and the withdrawal of arrest warrants, agreements that he says undermine basic principles of justice.
“The law does not allow agreements that benefit other people than the repentant himself,” he told Belgian media. The investigating judge “cannot be bound by an agreement between a prosecutor and a suspect! He must be able to remain independent.”
Töller pointed to another controversial agreement: the known date of Panzeri’s release from prison.
He alleges that negotiations surrounding Panzeri’s release were improper, with Panzeri’s lawyer celebrating the release in an interview recorded 48 hours before the decision was made by the council chamber.
Expressing astonishment at recent press releases, Töller questioned whether there was an undisclosed agreement between Panzeri and the federal prosecutor to spare Marie Arena from prosecution.
He emphasised Arena’s presumption of innocence and expressed concern about potential consequences for her and his client, Marc Tarabella, who, like Arena, denies any Qatargate involvement.
A few days ago, Tarabella underwent heart surgery, reportedly because of stress.
⚠️❤️Un petit message pour rassurer tout le monde, la nouvelle s’étant propagée hier. Mon opération au cœur s’est bien passée. Je quitterai l’hôpital d’ici peu pour ensuite entamer qq jours de repos.
Merci pour vos messages de soutien.
À très vite et en forme, promis ❤️😇⛑
— Marc Tarabella (@marctarabella) December 2, 2023
In response to these accusations, the federal prosecutor’s spokesperson, Eric Van Duyse, denied claims that the prosecutor had no intention of prosecuting Arena. Van Duyse said prosecution decisions will be made at the end of the investigation.
Arena’s name has been prominent from the beginning of the case though she has never been questioned, even as a witness.
Maxim Töller’s remarks come after an interview earlier this week by the two lawyers of Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP and former vice president of the European Parliament, in Belgian publication La Libre Belgique.
In that interview, they said the Qatargate case “really makes no sense,” and spoke of serious “dysfunctions.” The lawyers claimed “the Belgian justice system is being manipulated”.
They pointed out that at first, the investigators concentrated on a few people, and Marie Arena’s name kept coming up as a possible suspect. They said that that according to a State Security report (also leaked to local media) Arena is regarded as a cornerstone of the purported criminal organisation, whereas Eva Kaili is not a part of it.
For or unknown reasons, they claimed, the Belgian federal prosecutor declared Dejaiffe’s attempt to lift Arena’s immunity to be “in error”.
Brussels Signal asked the Belgian prosecutor if the story about Dejaiffe wanting to lift immunity from Arena was true, and why Arena hasn’t been questioned yet. The spokesperson of the public prosecutor declined to comment.
By @MaBenayad @lalibrebe Daring interview on #BelgianGate How the case will end, if the status of the Repentant is revoked. The revelations of wiretaps a few weeks ago, prove it should be revoked. #SvenMary #ChristopheMarchand pic.twitter.com/64wLRAdt8s
— Eva Kaili (@EvaKaili) December 5, 2023