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BRUSSELS: Footage of a young man in apparent psychological distress who after asking for police protection died on being brutally battered by a six-man unit in a tiny cell caused shockwaves across Belgium yesterday.
The disturbing scenes of police brutality that took place in early 2010 in the suburbs of the port city of Antwerp were aired on the VRT Dutch-speaking television network in a documentary late on Thursday.
Newspapers in northern Belgium headlined the story yesterday and Interior Minister Joelle Milquet dubbed the affair “scandalous” while deeming it “unacceptable” that the officer who delivered repeated blows to the 26-year-old as his colleagues kept him pinned down was not suspended from duty.
Jonathan Jacob, whose last hours were reported in a long documentary on the television channel, died in the cell on January 6, 2010 after the incident.
A body-building fanatic with a love of horses, according to his father, Jacob used amphetamines and on the night of his encounter with police appeared to be suffering from withdrawal.
After asking a police patrol for help, he was taken to a psychiatric clinic but once there refused to be locked up and threatened the officers.
Fearing violence, the clinic refused to take him in so the police officers drove the young man — who by then had stripped naked — to a police-station where he was locked in a tiny cell about 3.5 metres square.
A video camera then shows six helmeted police, armed with shields and batons, creep quietly towards the cell door, hurl a stun grenade inside and all six pin him down on the bed as he curls up in terror to shelter.
One of the officers lands six punches before a doctor gives him an injection to sedate him.
They realise then he is no longer moving and efforts to revive him fail.
In February, the Belgian judiciary ruled the head of the clinic and a psychiatrist who refused to take him in should be tried along with the officer responsible for the fatal blows.