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Denial over terrorism investigation privacy

Published on 29/07/2005

29 July 2005

BRUSSELS — The Antwerp social security office OCMW has denied allegations from the intelligence service VS that it refused to reveal the identity of asylum seekers suspected of drugs or terrorism crimes. 

However, the OCMW also qualified its statement and said it would not draw up a list of suspects itself, the cabinet chief of OCMW chairperson Monica Deconinck said, newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ reported.

The federal security service VS had earlier claimed on Friday that the Antwerp public prosecutor was forced to intervene recently in order for the OMCW to release the names of suspects.

The difference of opinion comes after the OCMW warned recently that a group of Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers on Belgian social security benefits regularly travel back to their country of origin.

The claims raised suspicions the refugees were involved in drug smuggling or linked to terrorism and the Antwerp public prosecution office started an investigation.

As part of its tasks to gather intelligence over possible terrorists and extremists, the security service VS was also interested in viewing the dossiers of the asylum seekers under suspicion.

“But the OCMW chairperson insisted that the OCMW may only reveal trends and no names. The OCMW only released the names after the intervention of the public prosecutor,” the VS was quoted saying by newspaper ‘De Tijd’.

However, OCMW cabinet chief Johan Demuynck said the social security office said the names of suspects have been passed on to various organisations since the alarm was first raised earlier this month.

“We have never used the professional confidentiality and privacy to refuse co-operation. Professional confidentiality also allows an appraisal to be made between the interest of privacy of clients and general interest, for example safety and the investigation of prosecutable crimes,” he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news