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Graft-accused MEP Kaili granted house arrest

#Graftaccused #MEP #Kaili #granted #house #arrest

A Belgian judge agreed on Wednesday to release Greek MEP Eva Kaili, the public face of the so-called Qatargate graft inquiry, from jail and to place her under house arrest pending prosecution on corruption charges.

Kaili’s defence lawyer Sven Mary told AFP that Kaili might not leave prison until Friday or even Monday, and only once officials have processed paperwork and fitted her with a tracking bracelet. 

“At this stage we must must give her the opportunity to be reunited with her family, and in particular her child,” he said. 

The scandal rocked the European Parliament, which has vowed to clean up its lobbying and transparency rules, and enraged the governments of Qatar and Morocco, which fiercely deny any connection to the cash bribes allegedly paid to influence EU policy in their favour.

Kaili, formerly a vice-president of the parliament representing the centre-left political grouping, has protested her innocence throughout the investigation.

The 44-year-old ex-newsreader was the last suspect still in pre-trial detention, more than four months after her arrest last year.

Four more accused, including her partner and the father of her two-year-old daughter Francesco Giorgi, had previously been released from custody wearing electronic trackers.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Kaili, who is from the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, will be allowed to reside at her Belgian address while the probe continues.

“She is under house arrest in Belgium and placed under electronic surveillance. The investigating judge has just made the decision,” Antoon Schotsaert, a magistrate at the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, told AFP.

She was initially arrested on December 9 last year when Belgian police raided a series of addresses tied to political figures in the Brussels region and seized more than 1.5 million euros in cash.

– Four months in jail –

Investigators allege that a former MEP, Pier Antonio Panzeri, ran a network of MEPs, NGO leaders and trade unionists prepared to take bribes to advance the interest of Qatar and Morocco, notably by reportedly seeking to water down European criticism of Qatari labour rights ahead of the 2022 football World Cup.

Both governments strenuously deny any wrongdoing, but Panzeri’s lawyer has said that he is cooperating with the investigation in full in the hopes of negotiating a lighter sentence.

Panzeri’s confessions led to the arrest in February of Belgian Socialist MEP Marc Tarabella, who was released to house arrest on Tuesday. 

Mary said that his client would remain at the disposal of investigating magistrate Michel Claise’s inquiry, while continuing to contest all charges.

“She has been shouting her innocence for four-and-a-half months,” he told AFP. “Today she is half-free, she has not been granted absolute freedom.

“We will continue to fight until the truth gets dressed and comes out into the light of day, whether that’s in a few week of a few months,” he said.

“And the truth is not what is coming out of the mouth of Mr. Panzeri, that’s a sure thing.”

Another suspect, Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino, is being held under house arrest in Italy and is fighting his extradition to Belgium. An appeal hearing is due in Naples on May 2. 

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