Suspect Belgian ex-minister takes life

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The Independent Online

A former minister in Belgium who had been implicated in the murder of a rival politician has reportedly killed himself.

The body of Alain Van der Biest was found early yesterday at his mother's house in the south-eastern town of Liege, where the original murder took place. Mr Van der Biest, a former pensions minister, had been waiting to hear whether he would be charged over the death of the socialist politician André Cools in 1991.

Mr Cools, who was Deputy Prime Minister, was shot dead in a car park early on the morning of 18 July 1991. His lover was injured in the attack.

Seven years later two hired Tunisian gunmen were sentenced by a court in Tunis to 20 years in jail for the murder of Mr Cools, and a further five years for trying to kill his lover.

Mr Van der Biest, a friend and later a rival of Mr Cools, was arrested in 1996, amid claims that he ordered the death as part of a political vendetta within the socialist party. He was detained from September 1996 to January 1997, and in December 2001.

Mr Van der Biest's lawyer, Jean-Luc Dessy, said his client died after taking an overdose of medicine and left a letter to his wife proclaiming his innocence.