The European Union civil servant found guilty last week of a vicious antisemitic assault in 2015 has said he will appeal the sentence handed down by a Belgian court.
Stefan Grech, a 49-year-old Maltese citizen, was convicted of incitement to hate or violence toward people of Jewish faith, violation of anti-racism laws, and assault aggravated by racial hatred following a violent altercation in a Brussels cafe in July 2015 — during which he violently attacked an Italian colleague, called her a “dirty Jewess,” and shouted that “the Jews are doing to the Palestinians what Hitler did to the Jews.”
On Oct. 2, Grech was given was a three-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay his victim 500 euros in compensation by a court in Brussels. But over the weekend, the Times of Malta reported that Grech would appeal the sentence, accusing the Brussels-based Belgian League Against Antisemitism (LBCA) of launching a “witch-hunt” against him.
Prior to sentencing Grech — who holds a previous conviction for possession of child pornography — the court heard that on July 16, 2015, he had been celebrating his 10th anniversary as an employee of the European Commission with friends at L’Italiano cafe in the Belgian capital. After drinking heavily throughout the evening, Grech, who had been clutching a metal plaque commemorating the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, embarked on a tirade in praise of the late Italian dictator.
Confronted by a 50-year-old Italian woman who also works in a senior position at the European Commission, Grech attacked her when she pointed out to him that Mussolini had murdered thousands of Jews. Witnesses said that when she told Grech that she “could be Jewish,” he then struck her across the head with the metal plaque and attempted to strangle her. Throughout the assault, he yelled antisemitic epithets including, “dirty Jewess,” and, “You should have all been killed.”
The victim filed a complaint against Grech with police the following day. She presented a medical certificate attesting to a head trauma, a concussion and pains on the right side of her head as a result of the attack.
Grech nonetheless dismissed the entire incident as a drunken misunderstanding. According to his account of the attack published by news outlet Malta Today, “Among our Italian friends were a communist and also a fascist, who showed off his tattoo of Mussolini and then went outside to his car to bring back a mock license-plate that read ‘Mussolini’ — so I started waving it around in the face of the communist, taunting him about it by singing a fascist song.”
“It was simply banter, nothing serious,” he said.
While Grech did not explicitly respond to the accusation that he had used antisemitic invective against his victim, he did admit to comparing Israel with the Nazis.
“The woman came up on me and protested at what I was saying, pointing out that Mussolini had killed many Jews,” he claimed. “But then I reacted, saying that what the Jews were doing to Palestinians was similar to what Hitler had done to the Jews — I might have given the woman a friendly tap on her ear with the license plate, at which point all hell broke loose, but it was a meant to diffuse what was becoming a heavy debate…her friend at that point attacked me and it got out of control.”
The conviction for antisemitic assault led Grech to resign his position as chair and member of the board of Generation 2004, a trade union for EU employees. Depending on the findings of a European Commission internal inquiry into the incident, he could also lose his position in Brussels.
Grech has been in trouble with the authorities on at least one previous occasion, having pled guilty to serious charges of pedophile activity. In October 2002, a court in Malta convicted him of possessing and distributing pornographic images of children under the age of nine. Grech received a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years, later joining the EU’s civil service in 2005.
After Grech was sentenced last week, Joel Rubenfeld — the head of the LBCA — said that he expected the European Commission to take “the appropriate measures regarding Grech.”
“A convicted antisemite, a man who hurled anti-Jewish insults, shouted that Hitler should have killed all Jews, punched a woman in the face and tried to strangle her, has definitely no place in the European institutions,” Rubenfeld stated