Belgian Journalists Back in Court over Claims of Aiding Illegal Migration

Luc Ravaz (R) and Aurelie Cerceau (L), defenders of Bruno Cholet, a serial rapist who operated an illegal taxi in central Paris, for the 2008 kidnapping and murder of Swedish student Susanna Zetterberg, arrive at the courtroom at the courthouse in Paris, on September 4, 2012, before the trial. Cholet, …

A Belgian advocate-general has called for the acquittal of one journalist in a court of appeals and the conviction of another, who is said to have been involved in aiding the trafficking of illegal migrants.

Journalist Anouk Van Gestel, editor-in-chief of the Belgian edition of the magazine Marie Claire, was originally put on trial along with three other Belgians and eight non-Belgians in 2018, but all of the accused were acquitted by a Brussels court later that year.

Prosecutors launched an appeal into the case, but the advocate-general has called for the acquittal of van Gestel while still pursuing a  suspended sentence for journalist Myriam Berghe, who is accused of being an accomplice to human traffickers, 7sur7 reports.

The advocate-general apologised to van Gestel in court, saying that she should never have been prosecuted at the original trial or the appeal. He also called for the acquittal of another man from the original case, saying there was a lack of evidence to establish guilt.

The Belgian magistrate called for two five-year suspended sentences, four four-year suspended sentences, and a one-year suspended sentence for seven men accused of helping migrants get on board lorries to reach the United Kingdom.

“It is too easy to say that the laws in Belgium are poorly written. The help provided [to the illegal migrants], however minimal it may be, is too much,” the advocate-general said, adding: “You have to open your eyes a little! Getting people to take risks to get to Britain is not helping them.

“It is not the defendants who have to discover corpses in refrigerated trucks or retrieve bodies from the sea.”

In 2018, van Gestel had housed a Sudanese asylum seeker in her home. The year before, police had raided her home after suspicions that she was harbouring people-smugglers.

Van Gestel became involved in the case when her friend, Myriam Berghe, called to ask if she knew anyone who could help a 17-year-old reach the United Kingdom. However, the Marie Claire editor did not know that police were tapping Berghe’s phone at the time.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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