BRUSSELS -- Six followers of the banned Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong filed a lawsuit Wednesday against ex-president Jiang Zemin and two senior aides for crimes against humanity, under a new Belgian law.
The 30-page suit accuses Jiang -- who remains China's military head -- of "torture, crimes against humanity and genocide," said lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier after handing it to federal prosecutors.
The suit also targets Luo Gan, head of the political and legislative affairs committee, and Li Lanqing, former head of a Beijing office described as a kind of "gestapo" to pursue Falun Gong members.
"Jiang's horrific form of genocide...is a terror that does not just destroy lives, but destroys faith. It is a terror that should not be allowed to exist in the modern world," said Beauthier.
"It is a terror that must be brought to justice."
The Chinese embassy in Brussels was not immediately available for comment on the legal action.
Outside the Palace of Justice in downtown Brussels, some 30 Falun Gong supporters staged a sit-down protest, showing pictures of alleged torture victims and holding a banner reading "Put Jiang Zemin in the dock."
Inside the court building the plaintiffs included 40-year-old Zhizhen Dai, who says her husband was killed after being arrested because of his membership of the Falun Gong movement. [Ed. note Falun Gong has no membership]
She now lives in Sydney with her three-year-old daughter, and has taken Australian nationality.
"I'm a mother. If we don't speak out for our children, who will speak out?" she asked, holding back tears. "I love the country and I love the people there, but this killing must be stopped," she told Agence France-Presse.
The suit was brought under new legislation adopted by Belgian lawmakers on August 5, to replace the controversial so-called "universal competence" law which led to cases against US and Israel leaders.
The old law, under which suits could be brought regardless of nationalities of those involved or where the alleged crimes took place, resulted in intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium, notably from Washington after President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were targetted by legal action.
The new law, which covers "serious violations of international humanitarian law", allows cases to be brought only if there is a link between the alleged crimes and Belgium.
One of the plaintiffs is Belgian while another Chinese plaintiff has been resident in Belgium since 1996. The other Chinese plaintiffs currently live in the United States, Ireland and Australia.
Belgian Matthias Slaats, who was deported from China, said the aim was to bring Jiang personally to justice.
"A case against Jiang Zemin is not a political statement," he said. "It is a case that fits within the original goals of the Belgian law on genocide: bring those who form a threat to humanity and to Belgian citizens to justice."
China banned the Falun Gong four years ago after some 10,000 followers of the group surrounded the Communist Party leadership compound in central Beijing to protest a government crack-down.
Falun Gong, whose followers practice meditation to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, says that over 1,600 members have been tortured or beaten to death in China, over 500 have been given prison sentences of over 20 years, over 1,000 interned in mental hospitals and more than 25,000 held in work camps. Some 100,000 others are being held without trial, it says.
Beauthier said he was confident the Belgian lawsuit would at least be accepted as valid by prosecutors. Asked if Jiang could one day face arrest, he cited the case of ex Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, detained in Britain in 1998.
"Belgium is a democratic country that upholds and respects human rights. Here we call upon the Belgian people (and) the Belgian government...to join us in ensuring that justice is served," said the lawyer.
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