Judge Claise to stay on in Qatargate corruption probe
A request for his recusal by a lawyer for one of the defendants was turned down by a Belgian court.
Michel Claise, the Belgian judge leading the European Parliament corruption probe, will remain in his role after a request to remove him was dismissed by a Belgian appeals court Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the federal prosecutor confirmed a Le Soir report that Claise could stay on.
Claise has emerged as the face of the investigation into foreign countries allegedly influencing the European Parliament’s work by handing out cash to lawmakers, ever since the raids started on December 9.
But his involvement in the case was in jeopardy after Maxim Töller, the lawyer of detained Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella, filed a request for Claise to recuse himself from the investigation. He claimed that Claise had shown bias against his client, as allegedly evidenced in the arrest warrant against him, which said that Tarabella’s public positions on Qatar changed after a suspicious transfer of funds.
Claise refused to step away but, per Belgian law, such a request automatically must be assessed by an appeals court. A hearing on the request for recusal took place last week.
Töller confirmed in a separate statement that his request was turned down.
“We’ve taken notice of the decision to keep judge Claise in his role,” Töller said, adding that he’s still convinced that “the question of the impartiality of the judge is raised.”
Tarabella’s provisional detention was prolonged two weeks ago by one more month, a decision that had to be taken by a replacement judge, given that Claise could not attend hearings while his role was contested.
Camille Gijs and Eddy Wax contributed reporting.