Students given community service over fatal hazing

ANTWERP, Belgium - A Belgian court on Friday sentenced 18 members of a college fraternity to community service over the death of a black student during a two-day hazing ritual in 2018.

Sanda Dia, then 20, suffered hypothermia and a cerebral oedema after ingesting a large quantity of alcohol and a salty cocktail laced with fish oil then collapsing in an icy pond.

The student, whose father came from west Africa, underwent the ritual humiliation on December 4 and 5, 2018 as a form of initiation to Reuzegom, a Flemish fraternity of the university of Antwerp.

He died after spending two days with the group in Leuven and a cabin in woods outside Vorselaar.

During the trial prosecutors called for jail terms for the two students considered to have been the ringleaders.

But the court was more lenient as it handed out only community service sentence for "grievous bodily harm resulting in death without intent to kill".

That ranged from 200 to 300 hours of community service for those involved, as well as fines of 400 euros.

The court said that the members of the now-dissolved fraternity "took action as soon as they saw" that Dia was in danger. 

Dia's family reacted with "relief" and yet "frustration" to the judgements, Sven Mary, a lawyer for his father, said. 

During the trial Ousmane Dia said that putting the culprits in prison would "not give him back his son", Mary said. 

Dia's death was a scandal in Flanders and anti-racist groups mobilised to demand justice for the young engineer, alleging that his treatment had been more extreme because of prejudice.