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Belgian Interior Minister Resigns

September 26, 1998

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Belgium’s interior minister resigned Saturday over the death of a Nigerian woman who died after police tried to subdue her during her deportation, the Belgian news agency reported.

Louis Tobback said he was stepping down from office, Belga reported. A spokesman for the interior ministry could not immediately confirm the report, saying he is still waiting to be formally notified by his superiors.

The Socialist minister, who is also vice-premier, had announced his plans to resignon Friday but was asked by the center-left coalition government to reconsider his decision until Saturday.

Tobback’s decision came after he learned that one of the two policemen who had tried to subdue Semira Adamu had already been punished by the police force last year for repeatedly kicking an asylum seeker.

Adamu, 20, died in a Brussels hospital last Tuesday from a brain hemorrhage, hours after police had stuffed a pillow over her mouth to restrain her on an airliner headed for Togo in West Africa.

Her death caused a public outcry over Belgium’s asylum policy and plunged the government into crisis.

Earlier, thousands of people gathered at Saint Michel cathedral in Brussels for a religious ceremony in memory of Adamu.

Around 5,000 Belgians and Africans attended the two-hour service, which included Christian and Muslim rites.

The cathedral was packed long before the ceremony began, and thousands of onlookers stood outside to witness the arrival of Adamu’s white coffin. Loudspeakers were placed outside for people to hear the service.

No date has yet been fixed for Adamu’s funeral. It’s unclear whether her remains will be flown back to Nigeria or buried in Belgium.

Update hourly