Stefan Grech’s victim ‘seriously traumatised’

Grech, 46, resigns from trade union • EC opens internal inquiry • Grech could face criminal charges for racism and promotion of Nazism, and sacking from his EU job

Stefan Grech
Stefan Grech

The victim of an anti-Semitic aggression by a Maltese employee of the European Commission was left “in a state of trauma” according to the president of the Belgian league against anti-Semitism  (LBCA), Joel Rubinfeld.

The 50-year-old Italian woman, so far unnamed, is a head of unit at the European Commission.

Belgian police have forwarded their investigations to the Brussels prosecutor into the assault by a drunken Grech, who has admitted having spent some five hours drinking mojitos before starting a rant lauding Mussolini, Hitler, and then attempting to strangle a woman he mistakenly assumed was Jewish.

“They did not know each other, but this woman is afraid of this man… she was left physically and psychologically affected by this incident,” Rubinfeld told MaltaToday.

The incident happened outside the L’Italiano café, on Rue Arlon, on 16 July at around 11:30pm.

Grech told The Times that he was actually celebrating an anniversary.

“I was out celebrating 10 years working with the European Commission and had been drinking mojitos from 7pm till about midnight when all this happened,” Grech said, adding he was not drunk but was not “100 per cent” fit either.

In what now appears to be a moment of high jinks gone wrong, Grech apparently was eulogising the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini while holding up a licence plate carrying his name

When the lady pointed out that “Mussolini was always a dictator”, Grech’s reaction turned violent.

After he started ranting about the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the woman told him, “we should not confuse Israeli government policy with the Jews”, to which he replied, “Dirty Jew… Hitler should have exterminated all the Jews, just as they today are exterminating the Palestinians.”

The woman, who is not Jewish, told the police he started to attack her when she told him, “I could be Jewish”.

She added in her police complaint: “That’s when all of a sudden the man took the sign in his hand and hit me in the face near my left ear. He then tried to take my neck in hands to strangle me.”

According to the woman, he told her: “You should have all been killed.” She added: “I was in shock and I started to cry.”

After filing her police complaint, the woman was taken to hospital where she was treated for concussion.

But Rubinfeld, who has met the woman, says the effects of Grech’s psychological attack have been far worse. “This woman has been seriously affected by the assault… the LBCA has now filed its own complaint against Grech,” he said.

“She has travelled extensively, has managed a considerable number of people, she’s a self-made woman. But this attack has shaken her to the core… when she recounted to me the events several weeks after it happened, she was crying.”

According to Haaretz, the woman was diagnosed with concussion and internal haemorrhaging, and is now seeing a psychologist, suffering from anxiety and taking tranquillisers.

Rubinfeld also said that Grech had got in touch with him, inviting him to meet up to discuss the matter personally. “He told me that he wanted to explain his position.”

Grech has told The Jerusalem Post that the incident is being blown out of proportion and stated categorically that he was not an anti-Semite. “I have nothing against Jews or against any nationality… It was people joking around about politics and it got out of control.”

Rubinfeld says Grech could possibly face charges on two laws against anti-Semitism and for the promotion of Nazism, as well as for his assault on the woman. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence.

EC opens internal investigation

News of Grech’s assault made the Belgian, French, and Israeli press on Thursday.

On Friday, Grech – who is brother to Nationalist MP Claudio Grech – resigned his position as chair and member of the board of Generation2004, a trade union for EU employees. He also removed his Facebook account.

A spokesperson for Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, whose portfolio includes human resources, said the Commission was aware of the incident and that it had opened an internal investigation.

“What is important now is that the facts are established. The Belgian authorities are currently doing exactly that. In the meantime, the presumption of innocence applies,” Andreana Stankova said.

Union vice-chair Eckehard Rosenbaum told MaltaToday Generation2004 condemned any form of violence, racism and discrimination and would not tolerate members who do not live up to these principles.

“Generation2004 trusts the competent authorities will establish the exact course of events and will respond accordingly. In the light of the outcome of these investigations, Generation2004 will decide on the further course of action.”


Disciplinary steps

Under Commission staff rules, Grech could face immediate suspension if he is accused of serious misconduct, and also suffer a partial suspension of his salary.

The situation of a suspended official must be definitively settled within six months of the date on which the suspension takes effect. If no such decision is taken within six months, the official concerned shall be entitled to again receive full remuneration.

Remuneration may continue to be withheld in part after the six-month deadline if the official concerned is the subject of criminal proceedings for the same acts and is in custody as a result of those proceedings.

In such cases the official shall not receive full remuneration until the competent court has ordered his release.

Sums withheld shall be repaid to the official if the final decision imposes a disciplinary penalty no more severe than a written warning, reprimand or deferment of advancement to a higher step, or if no disciplinary penalty is imposed.

Where the official is prosecuted for those same acts in a criminal court, a final decision shall be taken only after a final judgment has been handed down by the court hearing the case.