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Belgian court backs bishops, says police raid was illegal

Catholic World News - August 18, 2010

A Belgian court has ruled that the June 24 police raid on the offices of the country’s episcopal conference was illegal, and evidence collected in that raid cannot be used by prosecutors, according to a lawyer representing the Brussels archdiocese.

The disclosures by Fernand Keuleneer, the attorney representing the archdiocese, contradicts earlier published reports that a prosecutor had said that investigations based on the police raid could continue. The court apparently ruled that investigations into clerical abuse could continue, using other evidence.

The Belgian bishops had protested the June 24 raid, in which police seized files from the episcopal conference and from an independent commission set up by the bishops to investigate child-abuse charges. Those files will now be returned, Keuleneer indicated.

The actual decision by Judge Wim de Troy has not been made public, and prosecutors in Brussels have refused to comment on the case, adding uncertainty to the ultimate impact of the court's decision.

A lawyer representing victims of clerical abuse said that his clients would press their own protest to the European Court of Human Rights. The victims charge that by raiding the offices of the investigating commission, the police violated the confidentiality of the commission's records, and thus the privacy of the victims who lodged complaints after having been assured that they would be kept confidential.

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