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Court rules arrest of Extinction Rebellion activists was unlawful
Extinction Rebellion climate activists who were detained by Belgian police in 2019 will receive compensation after a court ruled that their arrest was unlawful.
On November 28, 2019, 22 members of Extinction Rebellion, a group that calls attention to global warming through civil disobedience, were arrested by the police in the Boom Cafe in central Brussels as they prepared for a demonstration against Black Friday the following day.
Around 22.00, when the activists were about to leave the cafe, the local police swooped on the group, arresting them and bundling them into a waiting van. After being strip-searched at a nearby police station, the activists were locked up and not released until early the following morning.
According to Extinction Rebellion, the activists only wanted to hold a "playful" protest against the annual day of discounts in shops, which they called an "insane promotion of overconsumption", but were prevented from doing so by the police.
Twelve of the arrested activists filed a complaint claiming the arrests were disproportionate and illegal. They claimed they were only going to stick posters on the stores on the Rue Neuve shopping street.
The judge hearing the case on Monday agreed. "Neither the risk of a serious breach of public order, nor the absolute necessity of this arrest" had been demonstrated, the court stated. Moreover, the use of handcuffs and the strip search were also not justified, according to the judgment. The right of the arrested persons to contact a person of trust had also not been guaranteed, it said.
"The police have not proven that we would have committed a serious crime that absolutely had to be prevented," the activists concluded from the court's ruling. Every activist who was arrested is now entitled to compensation of €250.
"I am really happy with this judgment," said Margaux Nocent, a lawyer for the twelve Extinction Rebellion activists. "We went to the civil court to prove that mistakes had been made and that these mistakes had caused damage and distress. When I took this case, I found people who were completely shocked and afraid to take further action.”
The Brussels Capital-Ixelles police zone confirmed the verdict but declined to comment. "We take note of the ruling and respect the course of justice, but we can't comment any further for the time being," a spokesperson for the zone said, before adding that the police were still studying the verdict.
According to reports, Brussels mayor Philippe Close, against whom a complaint had also been made, was acquitted.