Those of you who regularly read the news on this website might remember: Kouatar Fal, a Moroccan feminist, civil society activist, businesswoman, consultant, and journalist, organized two conferences (Interfaith Relations, Media in Africa) in the European Parliament (EP), registered her NGO “Organisation Internationale des Médias Africains” in Belgium and rented an apartment at Place Luxembourg.
On May 29th, she returned to Belgium with a valid visa, was arrested in Charleroi, and had her mobile phone and papers confiscated.
On May 30th, she was transported to the detention center “Centre Caricole” in Steenokkerzeel, to be detained there, next to the Zaventem airport.
On June 6th, the Seventh Chamber of the responsible Belgian court, the “Conseil du contentieux des étrangers”, ordered that she should be released immediately. The Belgian government ordered the detention center not to obey the decision of the court. This is an unusual behavior — in a Western-style democracy, based on rule of law, the administration, including ministries, is obliged to follow court decisions.
Based on an appeal of the Belgian government, the same court discussed the issue another time — and changed its judgement: as the state security argues she is a danger, she should remain in custody.
She appealed this decision and asked a higher court for a decision. This new court ruled that she was illegally detained and should be freed immediately.
The Belgian government appealed this decision, and lost: on Monday, July 9th, it was decided that she should definitely be freed. As her passport was still in Charleroi, the police drove her there. Instead of getting her documents, she was brought back to another detention center.
After one night in that center, she could leave on July 10th, albeit without her passport. She was informed that her lawyer should pick it up. She returned to her apartment, and slept in freedom for the first night in 42 days.
Happy ending? Not yet. What follows now is like Kafkaesque surrealism.
When, on July 11th, she left the house, two men waited in front of the building, and asked insistently for her passport. As she did not have it (only her driving license and a copy of the passport), they informed those present that her identity would be unclear and that she would be brought to the police station Marché au Charbon not far from the Grand Place.
When her friends went to the police station to look for her, the officers told them that there was no trace of Kouatar Fal. Her friends tried calling her, but her phone was switched off.
She had simply disappeared.
Her friends panicked and contacted the local police. Two officers arrived at Place Luxembourg and took notes about this strange disappearance. After 30 minutes, they had the following news: she had not disappeared, but was once again being held in custody, where it is impossible to contact her.
On Friday, July 13th, her friends managed to reach her via phone: she is now at “Centre127bis Steenokkerzeel” another detention center near the Brussels airport with its reputation being the worse of the Belgian detention centers.
On Monday, July 23rd, she informed the authorities that she will go to Casablanca. She bought a ticket and left the same day from Zaventem to Casablanca. Via our common friends, she declared that she expects that there would be an inquiry about what happened on June 11th in Brussels and that those who kidnapped her in front of her house and put her behind bars – despite court decisions to free her – would be brought to justice.
What is behind this strange affair? Will the Belgian authorities open the requested inquiry?