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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 20:06 GMT
Thousands mourn shot Belgium Arab
Mohammed Achrak's funeral
Achrak's family called for supporters to stay calm
Several thousand people have attended the funeral in Antwerp of a young Moroccan-born teacher, whose killing on Tuesday sparked two night of riots in the Belgian city.

Mohammed Achrak's coffin was draped in a Moroccan flag during the service and was carried through the streets during the funeral procession. He will be buried in Morocco next week.


I have no doubt that action is on the way

Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian prime minister
At the service, Mr Achrak's brother Satif pleaded with those present to stay calm.

"We are all angered by what has happened... but we don't need any more victims," he said.

Earlier, Belgian police charged Dyab Abu Jahjah, the head of an Arab militant group, with conspiracy to cause disorder, criminal damage and wounding a police officer in rioting.

More than 100 people were arrested during the violence.

Mr Abu Jahjah was arrested on Thursday after Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt indicated that the Arab European League (AEL) could be banned, and accused it of attempting to set up no-go areas for police.

The AEL described the arrest as a "provocation", but said it would not respond "as we don't want to be dragged into unnecessary frenzy at this stage".

Video patrols

The AEL is suing the city's mayor, Leona Detiege, for libel, after she accused the group of fomenting the riots on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the death of the teacher.

Protesters in Antwerp street
More than 100 people were arrested during the riots

The group last week began video patrols to film Antwerp police, in an effort to record what it claims is racist behaviour.

It distributed flyers under the heading: "Bad cops - the AEL is watching you."

Mr Abu Jahjah, who was born in Lebanon, has called for Arabic to be recognised as a fourth official language in Belgium, after French, Dutch and German.

The far-right opposition Vlaams Blok, which took 33% of the vote in the last local elections in Antwerp, called for the patrols to be arrested, and for the AEL to be banned.

"If we have to ban this organisation, then we will do so," Mr Verhofstadt told parliament, stressing that any decision would be based on the rule of law.

"I have no doubt that action is on the way," he added.

Ethnic mix

Officials are already investigating whether the video patrols breach rules banning private militias.

Earlier this year, there were attacks on Jews in the city, apparently linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About 30,000 people of Arab origin and 20,000 Jews live in the city of 450,000.

The Vlaams Blok holds 20 seats on the 55-seat municipal council.

Belgian police are still holding 20 youths of North African descent after arresting more than 100 during the rioting.

The demonstrators said the killing of Mr Achrak was racially motivated.

Police say there is no evidence for this.

A 66-year-old pensioner, described by prosecutors as mentally unstable, has been charged with Mr Achrak's murder.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Janet Barrie
"Charged with inciting this week's riots"
See also:

29 Nov 02 | Europe
28 Nov 02 | Europe
09 Oct 00 | Europe
12 Apr 02 | Country profiles
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