Bruges man in Cambodian jail sues Belgium

A man from Bruges sentenced to life imprisonment for drug trafficking in Cambodia in 2018 has been seeking extradition to Belgium, but negotiations have reached an impasse, Het Laatste Nieuws reported on Tuesday. His lawyer is officially blaming the Belgian state.

Tanguy Taller, 43, was convicted after another Belgian mentioned his name to Cambodian police in a case involving the smuggling of a kilogram of cocaine from Brazil to Cambodia. Although the other person later gave a statement exonerating him, Taller remains in custody.

"It's painful both physically and emotionally. They call it hell here, and that's what it is"

Het Laatste Nieuws spoke to Taller, who said he shares his cell with prisoners who have tuberculosis, HIV and scabies. "I am incarcerated in Correctional Centre 1, the largest prison in Cambodia, just outside Phnom Penh," he said. "It's difficult for me here because I'm being held unjustly. It's painful both physically and emotionally. They call it hell here, and that's what it is."

Following the release of Olivier Vandecasteele from an Iranian prison in May 2023, Taller's parents ​ called on the Belgian government to do more to secure their son's freedom. According to diplomatic sources, Taller's case is high on the agenda. He is receiving support from a consul who visits him every month.

No preferential treatment

However, Belgium cannot ask for preferential treatment, and Taller is subject to the same regime as all Cambodian prisoners. Meanwhile, the two countries' ministries of Justice are negotiating a bilateral transfer agreement.

"I recently sent a letter to my colleague in Cambodia asking for a transfer agreement"

Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt of Flemish liberal party Open VLD rejects criticism that Belgium does not care about Belgians in trouble abroad. "We are keeping up the diplomatic pressure," he said. "We are concerned about the fate of Tanguy Taller. I recently sent a letter to my colleague in Cambodia asking for a transfer agreement."

This is not the first time Belgium has made such a request, he said. "Such a treaty is my only concrete tool as minister of Justice. Once it's in place, things can move quickly. Taller's sentence is final, and I cannot undo it. A plea for clemency and extradition on humanitarian grounds outside such an agreement remains possible, but only the Cambodian authorities can decide."


#FlandersNewsService | A Belgian flag in front of Brussels' Justice Palace © BELGA PHOTO HERWIG VERGULT

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