Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP at the center of Qatargate, the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, was on Thursday ordered to remain in prison for at least two more months.
This was the third time Kaili appeared before the court since her arrest, and she has a right to appeal the decision.
The embattled lawmaker has been in pre-trial detention since 9 December, when she was arrested by Belgian police after being reportedly caught in the act. Over €150,000 in cash was found in her Brussels residence.
Her parliamentary immunity was lifted on the spot and she was later charged with participation in a criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.
Kaili’s lawyers failed to convince the court
Before her hearing on Thursday, Kaili had sacked her Belgian lawyer, André Risopoulo, and chosen as replacement Sven Mary, who represented one of the terrorists behind the 2015 Paris attacks.
“If someone becomes just a symbol and the detention is done on the symbolism of detaining someone because she is known because she is vice-president of the European Parliament, I think it makes no sense,” Mary told reporters on Thursday.
Her lawyers denounced her continued separation from her 23-month-old daughter and asked for her release with an electronic bracelet. Her defense team continues to insist on her innocence and plans to appeal the decision.
Throughout her detainment, her lawyers have defended her innocence and repeatedly complained about what they said were inhumane and “medieval” conditions in the police station before she was moved to the Haren prison on the outskirts of Brussels.
Her defense team has also denounced the fact that the 44-year-old has been allowed very limited visits with her infant daughter since her detention in December.
Kaili’s domestic partner and father to her daughter, Francesco Giorgi, also remains in prison, accused of the exact same crimes.
Key suspects in the Qatargate scandal
Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca have too been arrested and criminally charged, with the latter since released, with no conditions attached.
Another MEP, Andrea Cozzolino, was arrested last week in Naples and Belgian authorities have requested his extradition from Italy.
Panzeri, the presumed ringleader, has signed a plea deal with Belgian authorities, admitting actions of bribery and committing to sharing “revealing” information. The Italian’s pre-trial detention was also extended on Thursday.
The sprawling investigation is focused on an alleged cash-for-favours scheme that involved “large” sums of money and “substantial” gifts paid by Qatar and Morocco to influence decision-making inside the European Parliament.
Qatar and Morocco have vigorously denied the claims, calling them unfounded.