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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Belgian police tried over asylum death
Protester
The death of Adamu sparked huge protests
Five Belgian police officers accused over the death of a Nigerian asylum seeker have gone on trial.

Twenty-year-old Semira Adamu died during attempts to expel her from Belgium in 1998.

Her face had been pushed into a pillow as she resisted an operation to strap her to a seat on a plane returning her to Africa. She died later in hospital of a brain haemorrhage.

Her death sparked a wave of public protests and forced Interior Minister Louis Tobback to quit.

Three of the five policeman are accused of involuntary manslaughter and assault. Two others, who were supervising the operation, face charges of negligence leading to involuntary manslaughter.

Former Belgian Interior Minister, Louis Tobback
Louis Tobback was forced to quit as interior minister
Prosecutor Hedwig Steppe asked for suspended prison sentences for three of the defendants, and reprimands for the other two.

Defence lawyer Rene Kumpen said the five officers had done nothing wrong, and said a video of the operation showed that they were following normal procedures.

The court was shown the police video of scenes from the operation.

Adamu had unsuccessfully claimed asylum in Belgium, saying her family in Nigeria wanted her to marry a 65-year-old man with other wives. She had previously resisted five attempts to deport her.

Protests

Her death continues to arouse strong public emotions.

A protest banner reading "No to explusions" was unfurled on the entrance of the Brussels law courts as the trial got under way.

Police officers also staged a show of support for their colleagues.

The police union argues the five defendants were following the regulations which were in force at the time.

The Belgian state is also facing a claim for damages over Adamu's death.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Shirin Wheeler
"The police officers involved have been forced to account for their actions"



SEE ALSO:
Refugee death troubles Belgium
11 Nov 98  |  Europe
Outrage over death of immigrant
24 Sep 98  |  Europe


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