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Court: no grounds for prosecuting deputy leader on child sex charges

December 9, 1996

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The Supreme Court ruled Monday that evidence of pedophilia is not sufficient grounds to lift the parliamentary immunity of a vice premier.

Deputy Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo had been accused of having sex with at least one underage boy in 1989 and 1990 _ charges the socialist leader denies.

Two weeks ago, parliament agreed there was not enough evidence to support the allegations but urged prosecutors of the Supreme Court to continue the probe.

In a related development, Jean-Pierre Grafe quit as education minister of Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia. He is charged with having sex with underage boys, a case on which the Supreme Court is to rule Tuesday.

``The climate does not allow me to fully exercise my authority,″ Grafe, 63, said.

In its report to parliament on Di Rupo, the high court said that based on the evidence presented, ``there are not the least indications to justify″ prosecution.

Parliament also had asked the court to consider additional allegations contained in a sealed file. The court, however, returned the file unopened, saying the information should be considered first by the legislative commission that is deciding whether to lift Di Rupo’s immunity.

Normally, parliament must first lift the immunity of a politician to clear the way for a trial in the Supreme Court.

Di Rupo, 45, is economics and telecommunications minister and one of four vice premiers. He is the No. 2 man in the French-speaking Socialist Party.

Belgium has been battered by a series of scandals, the worst being a bungled investigation into a child sex ring blamed for the deaths of at least four girls. The allegations against Di Rupo are not linked to that case.

Under public pressure, the government approved a sweeping reform of the judicial system Friday to grant more rights to crime victims, make magistrates more accountable, and improve cooperation between various police forces.

To date, the government has stood by Di Rupo. His supporters have accused opposition parties, especially in Dutch-speaking Flanders, of exploiting public unease over the child killings for political ends.

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