EU lawmaker Eva Kaili has been ordered to remain in custody for another month as investigations continue into corruption charges, with one of her lawyers suggesting prosecutors were ‘acting politically’ in the case.
Kaili, who was removed from a vice president position at the European Parliament following her arrest in Brussels on corruption charges, will spend the winter holidays in jail after a Belgian judge on Thursday extended her pre-trial extension to one month.
The judge did not make public the logic behind the detention decision, which came as a response to Kaili’s lawyers who said their client was cooperating with investigators and requested that she be released with an ankle bracelet for electronic monitoring.
Greek attorney Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, who flew from Athens to join Kaili’s defense team in Brussels, told reporters that his client was innocent.
Prosecutors accuse Kaili and others of corruption and money laundering in connection with an unnamed Gulf state, but the MEP was not an initial suspect until she was caught having knowledge of dirty money in her house.
“She feels betrayed by her partner, she trusted him, he betrayed her,” Dimitrakopoulos said.
Several commission vice presidents supported visa-free travel for Qataris, but Kaili was singled out after Cypriot MEP Loucas Fourlas said his Greek colleague sought changes to soften a Qatar report
Kaili says she did not have prior knowledge about €150,000 that Belgian police found in an apartment that she owns with her male partner, parliament staffer Francesco Giorgi who is also a suspect and the father of her child.
Thursday’s hearing took place behind closed doors with Dimitrakopoulos later telling Greek media that Belgian prosecutors had argued Kaili should not be released “because there was a risk that Qatari police forces could send spies to kidnap her and take her to Qatar.”
Dimitrakopoulos said pre-trial detention ought to be based on a risk of being a fugitive or tampering with evidence, adding that the lead prosecutor was “acting politically” to give the impression that authorities were taking no chances.
“Ms. Kaili said from the very first moment, I want to be under house arrest, to have only one phone, no other electronic device, and I accept this phone to be officially monitored by the police and that I have no contact other than with my child,” the lawyer said.
Media reports have pointed out Kaili’s stance on Qatar, a Gulf state where the Greek MEP had visited and lobbied for improving ties with the bloc.
Other EU commission vice presidents also had spoken in favor of visa-free travel for Qataris earlier this year, Josep Borrell, Margaritis Schinas, Ylva Johansson, and Stella Kyriakides.
But Kaili took things further according to Cypriot MEP Loucas Fourlas, who notified Nicosia after his Greek colleague sought changes in a Qatar report to soften its language.
“After contacting and coordinating with Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Mr Kornelios Korneliou, I refused to submit the changes in question as I took them to be against my own positions regarding work conditions in Qatar,” Fourlas said.
The Cypriot MEP, a known critic of Doha, has been following the issue of Qatar, which he considers an ally of Turkey.
Investigators have yet to name the Gulf state in the probe but media speculation has pointed to Qatar, an allegation vehemently denied by Doha.