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Belgian policeman in court over death of Kurdish toddler

Parents of Mawda Shawri, a two-year-old Kurdish girl who died after police accidentally shot her in Belgium in May 2018 [THIERRY ROGE/AFP/Getty Images]
Parents of Mawda Shawri, a two-year-old Kurdish girl who died after a policeman accidentally shot her in Belgium in May 2018 [THIERRY ROGE/AFP/Getty Images]

A Belgian policeman is in court today over the death of a Kurdish toddler he accidentally shot in May 2018, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.

The officer shot two-year-old Mawda Shawri when he opened fire on a van being driven by people traffickers transporting migrants from continental Europe to Britain.

The police officer, who has not been publicly named, said he intended to fire at the tyre of the moving vehicle, hoping to halt the suspect van during a high-speed car chase.

However, the officer's car swerved violently while he was taking the shot, causing the bullet to hit the body of the vehicle, where Mawda and her family were crouching, rather than the tyre.

The officer does not deny he drew and fired his gun, but maintains he was not aware there were migrants on board, according to AFP.

Laurent Kennes, his lawyer, told AFP: "It's a horror to carry the image of someone responsible for the death of a child."

"He feels that everything has fallen on him, that he has to carry the errors of the state prosecutors, of migration policy," Kennes added.

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The officer, who is a 40-something father-of two, faces a charge of involuntary homicide and will be tried in a court in the western Belgian city of Mons.

If found guilty, he could face a five-year prison sentence.

Two Kurdish Iraqis, the driver of the van and the alleged migrant smuggler, will be tried alongside the police officer.

The pair have been charged with dangerous driving, aggravated by death. It remains unclear what sentence they could face if convicted.

The incident caused a scandal in Belgium, casting a spotlight on the criminalisation of irregular migration; the dehumanisation of refugees; and the questionable tactics employed by French and Belgian police forces.

The case has garnered support from several high-profile celebrities including British filmmaker Ken Loach who asked people to consider "what circumstances justify shooting into a van full of people?"

Meanwhile, Roger Waters, a member of Pink Floyd who is also supporting the cause, urged Belgians to attend the two-day hearing and refuse to allow authorities to "sweep the death of this child under a rug", AFP reported.

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