The ordeal of Sanda Dia, who died in 2018 as a result of his hazing after drinking fish oil, had moved Belgium. Eighteen of the student's comrades were sentenced on Friday to community service for assault and battery that involuntarily resulted in death.
Sentences ranging from 18 to 50 months in prison were requested in March, during the trial before the Antwerp Court of Appeal (north).
But the court was more lenient, notably dismissing the prevention of "administration of a harmful substance resulting in death".
A reference to the very salty mixture based on fish oil that the "rookie" had to swallow, and which the doctors considered to be the cause of the fatal cerebral edema.
The decision was greeted by the Dia family with "relief" and "frustration", in the words of Sven Mary, the father's lawyer.
During the trial, the latter, Ousmane Dia, said that putting the culprits in prison "will not give him back his son", recalled the lawyer.
"But there remains a great void and questions to which the family will never have an answer," lamented Me Mary. He castigated the "omerta" which reigned throughout the procedure within the Reuzegom student circle at the origin of this hazing.
Born in Antwerp to a Mauritanian father, Sanda Dia, 20, began her engineering studies at the prestigious Catholic University of Louvain (KU Leuven) in the fall of 2018.
On December 4, the day after a test of selling roses in the street from which he came out badly classified, he had to swallow a phenomenal quantity of alcohol.
The investigation showed that after several beers, he had drunk a liter of gin on his own, and that the objective was not to let him sober up. The sink faucet in her Leuven apartment had been taped shut to prevent her from hydrating.
The next day, the trials continued around an isolated chalet on the outskirts of Antwerp. This time, the "rookie" had to stay outside in the cold in a hole filled with ice water, after swallowing this mixture of fish oil.
When Sanda Dia was admitted on the evening of December 5 to the emergency room of a nearby hospital, his body temperature fell to 28.7 degrees, hypothermia making "any blood test impossible", said during the first trial in 2021 one of the doctors who examined him.
He was quickly transferred to intensive care in another hospital, where he was declared dead on December 7. The fatal cerebral edema resulted from abnormally high sodium levels in his body, the medical records say.
In the end, the 18 students sent back to correctional two years after the events were all found guilty of "grievous bodily harm resulting in death without intent to kill".
Depending on the case, they are fined 200, 250 or 300 hours of community service - "labor penalties" according to Belgian terminology -, as well as a fine of 400 euros, not to mention the thousands of euros in damages due to civil parties.
In addition to the administration of harmful substances, the court also dismissed the prevention of "non-assistance to a person in danger".
The members of Reuzegom, a fraternity now dissolved, "took action as soon as they saw that he (Sanda Dia) was in danger", commented a spokeswoman for the court of appeal citing the motivations of the stop.
After the episode of the ice water well, "they gave him dry clothes, tried to warm him up," said the spokesperson.
Started in the fall of 2021 in Hasselt (north-east), the trial at first instance was suspended in the spring of 2022 and relocated to Antwerp.
The Hasselt Criminal Court only considered itself competent for the events that occurred in the chalet in the Antwerp region, not those in Leuven the day before.
Sven Mary welcomed Friday the fact that the court of appeal agreed with the family by re-examining the file from A to Z. "The horror, you have to see it in its entirety", he told AFP in April 2022.
26/05/2023 15:00:57 - Antwerp (Belgium) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP