Qatargate: Judge Michel Claise refuses to withdraw from the investigation

Editorial Team

Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Investigating judge Michel Claise refuses to withdraw from the investigation into suspicions of corruption within the European Parliament, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Monday, confirming information from the newspaper Le Soir.

Last week, the defense of MEP Marc Tarabella filed a motion to disqualify the investigating judge in charge of the investigation. According to Me Töller, his client’s presumption of innocence has been flouted on several occasions.

As Judge Claise sees no reason to step aside, the Court of Appeal will have to rule on the motion for recusal.

The investigating judge arrested the Belgian MEP on suspicion of corruption, money laundering, and participation in a criminal organization. Last Thursday, the Brussels Chamber extended his remand by one month. However, even before the Chamber hearing, Tarabella’s lawyer, Maxim Töller, applied to challenge Michel Claise.

According to Tarabella’s lawyer, the investigating judge trampled on the presumption of innocence in his arrest warrant, stating that “the accused’s public positions were initially detrimental to Qatar, but were adjusted after suspicious movements of money were detected”. Furthermore, Töller argued that Claise seemed “to consider the allegations he is investigating to be proven.”

The investigating judge “must guarantee absolute impartiality and balance the scales between all parties, aiming to uncover the truth. This was not the case in this matter”, said Töller. “There is a strong suspicion of bias on the part of the investigating judge, which makes him unfit to carry out his mission,” he concluded.

Claise refuses to recuse himself from the case, and the Court of Appeal must rule on the challenge within eight days. This decision can still be appealed in cassation.

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