Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino is among four MEPs accused of taking bribes from foreign countries to sway EU lawmakers, in the Qatargate investigation. On 11 April, Italian judges will decide whether Mr Cozzolino will leave house arrest in the southern Italian city of Naples and be taken to a Belgian prison under a European Arrest Warrant.
His lawyer has accused Belgian prosecutors of trying to “see if he cracks” and demanded more details about the allegations, as well as reassurances that his client’s health won’t suffer in a Belgian jail. Cozzolino’s lawyer has accused the Belgian prison service of being overcrowded, with “lacking and obsolete” facilities, and Italian judges allowed Mr Cozzolino to stay at home because he has heart problems.
Alberto Alemanno, professor of EU law at HEC Paris, dismissed Mr Cozzolino’s allegations as “fictitious”. He accused him of “leveraging the health status of Mr Cozzolino in order to somehow tarnish… a very difficult investigation across Europe”, arguing they were a delaying tactic. Alemanno described European Arrest Warrants as the “bread and butter” of European justice, and said Mr Cozzolino’s attempts to challenge it were “very unusual”.
The Qatargate investigation centres around allegations that Qatar and Morocco paid a group based in Brussels to sway EU lawmakers. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing, while Morocco has hit back at “judicial harassment” and “media attacks”.