The Advocate General at the Court of Cassation concluded on Wednesday morning that the inadmissibility of the proceedings, decided by the Court of Appeal on 18 September last, in the case of the Buddhist community Ogyen Kunsang Choling (OKC), had been dismissed.
The defense was given until 24 April to respond in writing to the Advocate General's opinion. The decision of the Court of Cassation is expected on May 22nd, the date of the next hearing. The religious community, some of its leaders and its spiritual leader Robert Spatz were prosecuted for financial crimes, labour law violations, child hostage-taking and sexual abuse, among others.
The Advocate General considered that the irregularities committed during the investigation and during the proceedings before the First Judge did not constitute sufficient grounds for declaring all the proceedings inadmissible. "We are obviously very satisfied that the Advocate General agrees with our point of view and believes that this trial must be repeated, but we are now waiting for the court's decision," said Dimitri De Beco, lawyer for former OKC members born in the community. A new appeal trial is expected if the Court of Cassation follows, as usually, the opinion of the Advocate General.
The Court of Appeal considered, that the chartered accountant who had been appointed to analyse the accounts of the OKC asbl and the companies attached to it had "overstepped the limits of its referral and shown partiality". In particular, he had shared his views with the investigators, worked on their premises and allowed himself to write in his reports, concluding that "Robert Spatz was running OKC in a covert manner".
In particular, the Advocate General considered that there was a difference between the impartiality of an expert and that of a judge. The Court of Appeal had still considered that the reasonable time to be tried had expired, which had already been noted by the Indictments Chamber before the case was referred to the Criminal Court.
The Advocate General has pointed out here that the fact that the reasonable time limit found has been exceeded does not necessarily mean that proceedings are inadmissible. The OKC community was founded in Brussels in 1972 by Robert Spatz, called the Lama Kunzang Dorje.
Between 1980 and 2000, the children of the group members were sent to community properties in Portugal and France. Some reported that they had been abused there. Labour exploitation and sexual abuse were also discussed. In 1997, a Franco-Belgian operation led to searches in the Brussels region and Castellane, France.