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‘Sanda’s father brushed off the Reuzegommers’ regrets’

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Sanda Dia’s family took the floor on the last day of the Reuzegom trial. Journalist Yannick Verberckmoes follows the lawsuit for De Morgen. ‘It was completely silent after the end of the session.’


Hello Yannick, how did the last session day go?

“Today, especially Sanda Dia’s family has spoken. That was of course very emotional. His father Ousmane Dia turned to the Reuzegommers and said that they were not real friends of Sanda Dia, because friends would never do such a thing to each other. It was also remarkable that he said that no one has made an attempt to approach the family, except for one Giant Gommer whom he met by chance in the cemetery. He actually brushed off the regrets of the Reuzegommers, because according to him they are not sincere.”

“The speeches of the other family members were also very moving, especially those of Ousmane Dia’s wife. She said that she is afraid to go to work because she fears that he will harm himself. It is the first time that the family members themselves express their emotions, which of course comes in much harder. It was therefore very quiet after the end of the session.”

“There are still a lot of questions that the family has not received answers to during the process. For example, the group in Leuven was approached by a professor of medicine who was concerned about Sanda Dia. A Giant Gommer would then have claimed that he himself is a medical student and that the baptism would not take long. It is still not clear who of the eighteen that was. The question also remains who exactly administered the fish sauce to Sanda Dia, the Giant Gommers are silent about that in all languages. The family is therefore still in a lot of frustration. You would think that everything has been said about this case and that is correct, but there have been no answers to those crucial questions.”

“After that, the defense was allowed to replicate, but that remained with two short interventions by Walter Damen and Jan De Man. The latter spoke on behalf of all lawyers. The tenor there was that everything has now been said, now it is up to the court to do its job.”

How did the Reuzegommers react to the family’s emotional speeches?

“Most of them were listening with their heads bowed, that was noticeable. Certainly the Giant Gommers in the front row stared at the ground.”

“At the very end of the session, some Reuzegommers also had the floor. The first statement from ‘Dung Fly’ seemed a bit contrived, perhaps because he had put it down on paper. The shaft tamer ‘Janker’, against whom the heaviest punishment has been claimed, had a very difficult time. Is it because of the imprisonment that hangs over his head or because of the statements of the family, it is difficult to say. It is those kinds of interventions that make you realize that these are young people who still have their whole lives ahead of them.”

What happens next?

“The Court of Appeal in Antwerp is now considering the matter and will issue a judgment on May 26. The court must decide whether it evokes the case, thus taking the case completely off the hands of the court in Hasselt and judging the facts itself. In principle, the court of appeal can still say that the entire process will be sent back to Hasselt, but I suspect that will not happen. The entire process has actually already been conducted in Antwerp. It is highly likely that the Court of Appeal will immediately pass the final judgment and pronounce the sentences.”

For Sven De Baere, one of Sanda Dia’s father’s lawyers, all Reuzegommers are guilty across the board. How do you expect the court to rule on this?

“That is very difficult, because Reuzegom as a club is not on trial. They are eighteen individual people, for each of whom one sentence has been claimed. So you actually have to weigh up for each Giant Gommer exactly what he has done and what punishment is in return. For example, for the first charge, the administration of harmful substances, it seems difficult to convict everyone because it is still not clear who gave Sanda Dia the fish sauce.”

“For other things, such as degrading treatment, you could say that everyone who took part in the baptism was guilty of it. Then many more Reuzegommers are eligible. But for the most serious charges, administration of toxic substances and accidental killing, that is much less clear.”

“The Public Prosecution Service has demanded prison sentences of between 18 and 50 months, but it is difficult to say whether anyone will actually have to go to prison. A large part of the Reuzegommers may receive community service. The reason why society is so preoccupied with this process is precisely because it is so morally difficult to pass judgment on this. You see those guys had no intention of killing anyone, but they did. The question of how we deal with this is very complex and that also makes it difficult to predict what the outcome of the case will be.”

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