Belgium in shock over police brutality video

Belgium

Footage of a young man in psychological distress who asked for police protection but later died after being brutally battered by a crack six-man police unit in a case which occurred in 2010 today sent shockwaves across Belgium.

The disturbing scenes of police brutality that took place in early 2010 in the suburbs of the port city of Antwerp were yesterday aired on the VRT Dutch-speaking television network in a documentary.

The shock story today headlined newspapers in northern Belgium and Interior Minister Joelle Milquet dubbed the affair "scandalous". She said in a statement that she had written to the local authorities to suspend and consider putting on trial the officer who delivered repeated blows to the 26-year-old as his colleagues kept him pinned down.

Jonathan Jacob, whose last hours were reported in a long documentary on the television channel, died in a cell on January 6, 2010, after the incident. A body-building fanatic with a love of horses, according to his father, Jacob used amphetamines and on the night of his encounter with police appeared to be suffering from withdrawal.

After asking a police patrol for help, he was taken to a psychiatric clinic but once there refused to be locked up and threatened the officers with his fists.

Fearing violence, the clinic refused to take him in so the officers drove the young man who by then had stripped naked to a police-station where he was locked in a tiny cell about 3.5 metres square. A video camera in the police station shows six helmeted police, armed with shields and batons, creeping quietly towards the cell door before hurling a stun grenade inside. All six then pinned him down on the bed as he curled up in terror to shelter.

One of the officers then landed several punches before a doctor gave him an injection to sedate him. But they realised he was no longer moving and efforts to revive him failed. In February, the Belgian judiciary ruled the head of the clinic and a psychiatrist who refused to take him in should be tried along with the officer responsible for the fatal blows.

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