Iranian charged after Belgian courtroom killings
A 47-year-old Iranian man was charged with manslaughter Friday after admitting to shooting dead a judge and clerk in a central Brussels court a day earlier, officials said, DPA reported.
The man, who has not been named, was arrested late on Thursday. Police officials said that he had confessed to shooting the judge in revenge, after she signed in 2007 a court order evicting him from the rented accommodation where he was living.
The Belga news agency quoted prosecutor's spokesman Jean-Marc Meilleur as saying that officials had decided not to press murder charges yet because there was no proof that the killings were premeditated.
However, the man confessed to having bought his weapon, a 7.56-millimetre-calibre hand gun, after his eviction, leaving open the possibility that he could yet be tried for murder.
The killing took place in a small courtroom adjacent to the imposing Brussels Palace of Justice on Thursday morning. The courtroom was used for trying minor cases.
Witnesses said the man entered the court during a hearing, waited until the session had finished, and then without a word pulled out a gun and shot dead the judge and clerk of the court before fleeing on foot.
Belgian media on Friday morning identified the victims as judge Isabella Brandon, 60, and clerk of the court Andre Bellemans, 59.
The presumed killer was identified as an Iranian who had fled to Belgium, and who had been granted asylum in 2002. He had also appeared in court in the 1990s and in 2005, charged with assault, but officials could not say whether he had been found guilty.
Later on Thursday evening, police approached the man in a central Brussels park for questioning. Eyewitness reports said that he pulled out a gun, but that the police fired shots in the air, and while he was distracted, another policeman knocked the gun out of his hand with a riot baton.
Witnesses to the courtroom killings then picked the man out of an identity parade. He confessed shortly after midnight, police said.
Dutch-language broadcaster VRT posted a video on its website, www.deredactie.be, of the final stages of the man's arrest.
According to the site, the man shouted "Let me die! I have paid my taxes," as police overpowered him.