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Belgian police officer on trial over fatal shooting of two-year-old migrant

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Several people hung children's clothing outside the courthouse, alongside banners reading "Justice for Mawda".
Several people hung children's clothing outside the courthouse, alongside banners reading "Justice for Mawda".   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
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A trial has opened in Belgium into the fatal shooting of a two-year-old Kurdish girl during a high-speed police chase in 2018.

Mawda Shawri was shot in the head in a van being driven by suspected migrant smugglers, which was fleeing the authorities to Britain. She later died in an ambulance.

A total of 30 people were in the van at the time, including Mawda's brother and parents.

A police officer is standing trial accused of involuntary manslaughter, while two other men are facing charges for migrant smuggling.

Several people held banners outside the courthouse in the southern city of Mons, demanding "Justice for Mawda".

In the capital city, Brussels, other demonstrators hung pieces of children's clothing on a line at a solidarity event at the main courthouse.

The death of Mawda Shawri has become a symbol of injustice toward migrants and refugees fleeing their homelands to seek a better life in Europe.

British director Ken Loach is among those who have supported the "Justice for Mawda" movement.

"These are people who are fleeing terror, frightened for their lives, freeing across Europe, the most exploited, the most endangered people, the poorest, most vulnerable people we can imagine," Loach said.

"Mawda's murder took place in the context of tracking operations that are part of a racist policy of closing borders" at the European level, added the Belgian League for Human Rights.

Shawri was buried in Brussels in July 2018, and her parents were later granted a right of residence on humanitarian grounds.

The trial in Mons will focus on the police action and why it was deemed necessary to try to bring the van to a stop by shooting.

Belgian authorities said the police had no intention of targeting the people inside, and the officer's gun had been aimed at the "front left tyre".

The high-speed chase took place on a motorway in Wallonia, south of Brussels in May 2018.

The police officer, whose identity has not been revealed, faces a prison sentence of up to two years if convicted, while the suspected Iraqi migrant smugglers from who be jailed for up to 30 years.

The trial was briefly suspended early on Monday due to problems with Kurdish translations but was expected to resume later in the day.