An unnamed North African asylum seeker who stabbed 70-year-old priest Jos Vanderlee with a knife now risks three years in prison.
The attack occurred in the Saint Servaas Church in Lanaken, Belgium, and dates back to July 31, 2016, however, it was only last week that the asylum seeker began appearing in criminal court for the crime, reports Dutch news portal Het Laatste Nieuws.
The defendant, who only had his initials of A.D. released to the public, is well-known to the police for previous criminal acts. He is believed to be from Libya.
On the Sunday in 2016, the asylum seeker went to ask for help at the Saint Servaas Church where Vanderlee resides.
“He spoke both a mix of French and English and asked for ‘aid’,” said Vanderlee.
The priest also provided him with bread and a bottle of water, at which point the asylum seeker left.
A few hours later, however, he knocked at Vanderlee’s door again.
“He then asked if he could take a shower and then get a cup of coffee.”
Vanderlee had his doubts, but eventually decided to let the asylum seeker in. He allowed the man to take a shower inside his house.
Once out of the shower, the man asked Vanderlee for money, which Vanderlee denied him.
While the priest was making coffee for the asylum seeker, the man took out a knife and attacked the priest from behind.
“I heard him rummaging in his carrying case, but I was standing with my back to him. I was not quite trusting the situation anyway. I looked back and saw him with a gigantic knife right in front of me. Had I turned around two seconds later, he would definitely have gotten me,” the priest said.
The two began fighting one another, but the priest managed to defend himself successfully and the asylum seeker fled. The priest suffered wounds to his hands and tendons and was rushed to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Vanderlee is well-known in Lanaken and responsible for eight parishes in the region.
A few months later, the asylum seeker was arrested, at which point he denied that he took part in any crime.
However, last week at his first criminal court hearing, almost four years later, he admitted that he wanted to stab the priest. During his hearing, he said that he regretted what he did.
“This was not the intention. I’m sorry,” he said.
It is unclear why the case took so long to reach the trial stage. The asylum seeker now faces three years in prison.
The 2016 stabbing of Vanderlee occurred only a few days after French Catholic priest Jacques Hamel was stabbed to death by two men who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The 85-year-old priest was killed at the altar inside his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, located in Normandy, France. His two attackers, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean, both 19, took five hostages before slashing the priest’s throat inside the church.