(JTA) — A Belgian watchdog group on anti-Semitism said the near ramming of a Jewish father and son in Antwerp was a racist attack, but police said the suspect was inebriated and was charged merely with reckless driving.
In a statement Monday, the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, said its lawyers have initiated a criminal court case against the driver who on Saturday narrowly missed with his car the father and son while they were walking on the sidewalk. In Belgium, third parties in certain alleged offenses can sue defendants, who are then often exposed to criminal proceedings.
The father and son were dressed in Hasidic garb.
“The act appeared premeditated and the motivation, in the absence of any other explanation, should be seen as anti-Semitic,” the statement read, adding that the case “is immediately reminiscent of car-ramming terrorist attacks recorded in Barcelona, Berlin, Jerusalem, London, New York, Nice and Stockholm.”
The Antwerp-based Joods Actueel Jewish monthly reported that witnesses said the driver had foreign origins. The report did not name the man or offer any additional information on his identity. He was tracked down through the footage of the license plate and was arraigned on Sunday.
Contacted by JTA, a spokesman for the Antwerp police declined to offer additional information about the suspect.
“The driver shortly after the incident was arrested by officers after he was observed driving recklessly,” the spokesman said. “The man was detained for drunk driving and has been arraigned.”
Security cameras showed a black Seat Ibiza swerving sharply while speeding on Isabellalei, a central street in Antwerp, toward the father and son, who were dressed in Hasidic garb, according to Joods Actueel. The car is seen intersecting a bike path, apparently while speeding, then climbing the curb as the two are walking toward it, prompting the father and son to jump away from the curb and toward the safety of the building facades.
They jump behind a lamppost and the car swerves back wildly, returning to the road from its incursion into the sidewalk. The father runs after the car as it speeds away.
The incident in Antwerp is one of several recent cases in which Jewish groups and authorities in Western Europe disagreed on the role of anti-Semitism in the actions of alleged perpetrators of violence, including in Amsterdam and Paris.