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Qatargate: Eva Kaili and Marc Tarabella to Remain in pre-trial Detention

Eva Kaili (left) and Marc Tarabella (right)
MEPs Eva Kaili and Marc Tarabella, both charged in connection with the Qatargate scandal, will remain in pre-trial jail detention, Belgian authorities revealed on Friday. Credit: [both images] Euranet Plus / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0
Eva Kaili and Marc Tarabella, two MEPs implicated in the Qatargate scandal, will remain in jail in pre-trial detention, Belgian authorities confirmed on Friday.

The two MEPs have been charged with participation in a criminal organization, corruption, and money laundering in connection with illicit lobbying allegedly carried out by Qatar and Morrocco as part of sustained efforts to influence EU decision-making. Both Qatar and Morrocco have denied the allegations.

Kaili was initially arrested in December last year, as part of a police sting operation to uncover political corruption in Brussels. Tarabella was arrested later in February.

Eva Kaili and Marc Tarabella to remain in jail

On Friday, the Federal prosecutor’s office announced that Greek MEP Eva Kaili would remain in detention for at least a further two months.

Marc Tarabella, who was detained a couple of months after the initial police operation, will likewise remain in jail and is set to appear before judges again in one month’s time.

Tarabella’s legal representative, Maxim Töller, said that his client is “an innocent man” and decried the decision to detain him as “difficult to accept”.

Tarabella’s lawyer did however welcome “as good news” the choice to move him “to a prison closer to his family”.

Töller made no additional comment on Tarabella’s efforts to have the investigative judge, Michel Claise, removed from the criminal case for alleged bias.

Diplomatic and institutional impact

The sprawling investigation is focused on an alleged cash-for-favors scheme that involved “large” sums of money and “substantial” gifts paid by Qatar and Morocco to influence decision-making inside the European Parliament.

Qatar continues to deny the allegations. In the aftermath of the initial investigation and arrests in December, Qatar reiterated that the allegations were unfounded and expressed the sentiment that it had been “exclusively criticized and attacked”. The Qatari government also warned that the accusations might harm relations between the European bloc and Qatar.

Similarly, Morocco also denies allegations that it used bribery and gifts to try and influence European policy. The country denounced the allegations as “repeated media attacks” and “legal harassment”.

“The partnership between Morocco and the European Union is a partnership that faces attacks,” Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s foreign affairs minister, said in January. “Morocco’s position has always been that it is a partnership that must be protected on both sides.”

Qatargate: the investigation so far

Eva Kaili was arrested in the initial investigation, which involved police raids across Brussels in December, whereas Marc Tarabella was detained at a later date after his political immunity was waived in February.

Kaili has remained in jail since December. 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.

Kaili was arrested alongside her partner, Francesco Giorgi, and her father, Alexandros Kailis. Antonio Panzeri, Luca Visentini, Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, and an unnamed assistant of the Italian MEP Alessandra Moretti were also arrested in December.

Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino, also MEPs, were arrested in February.

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