Journalist Bart Aerts of the Belgian public broadcaster VRT has been sentenced to four months of conditional imprisonment for abusing the right to access the case of the so-called Castle Murder. Peter Gyselbrecht, the son of the convicted main offender, received the same sentence, writes VRT NWS.
The file was classified from the public. But some recorded telephone conversations from that file were heard in November 2016 in a broadcast of topical and urgent events programme Terzake. Although they were secret, they were sent out because the recordings gave the impression that the court was influenced by the victims family during the investigation.
It was previously considered that there was no influence but, according to Terzake, that judgment was based on incomplete information. Peter Gyselbrecht confessed shortly after that that he had passed the files on to the VRT editors. He was a suspect in the case at the time.
Later it turned out that Peter Gyselbrecht had nothing to do with it. But he was prosecuted for leaking the phone calls. Bart Aerts, who made the Terzak report, also appeared as a possible co-perpetrator of the leakage.
They had to answer to the judge for the abuse at the end of last year. The sons lawyer then said that his client wanted to defend himself with the leaks in the murder case. Aerts stated that he was fulfilling his journalistic task. According to the journalist, several sources would show that there was influence.
The judges now judge that the two intended to harm the “moral integrity” of the victims family. Since the facts are more than four years old, a parole sentence was imposed. Gyselbrecht appeals against this, claims his lawyer. “Aerts will probably do the same,” writes the broadcaster.
Professional association is shocked
The Flemish Association of Professional Journalists is shocked by the verdict. “We had always assumed that an acquittal would follow in this case,” says General Secretary Pol Deltour to the broadcaster. “The fact that a conviction follows after a search and seizure of a journalist is very dangerous for all journalists.”
According to him, Aerts had no intention of putting the family in a bad light. “He wanted to ask a number of justified questions about a socially relevant dossier. We hope that the judges on appeal will judge this completely differently and that the case will come before the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.”