A cyclist who sparked outrage in Belgium last year after he went viral for kneeing a young girl to the ground during her family's Christmas Day walk is now suing her dad for sharing the video online.
The footage was filmed by five-year-old Neia's dad, Patrick Mpasa, during their family walk in a nature reserve in Baraque Michel, Liege Province, on December 25, 2020.
The cyclist was taken to court in Verviers, only to be given a suspended sentence on the grounds that he had been criticised enough on social media and was ordered to pay the girl's family a symbolic and pitiful €1 in compensation.
Now, the 62-year-old cyclist who has not been named is taking Mpasa to court to sue him for defamation, local media outlet HBVL said yesterday.
In the video, the five-year-old girl is seen walking by her mother's side on the snow-covered path as the cyclist approaches them from behind.
Just as he rides alongside the girl, he seemingly extends his knee out, hitting the little girl and knocking her to the ground before continuing on his way unbothered.
The family believed it was not an accident, as the man did not stop to check if the girl was okay and carried on cycling down the path, but the court decided the cyclist was free to go because he had incurred enough criticism on social media.
Now, almost a year after the incident, the cyclist is heading back to court to sue the girl's father for defamation on the grounds that the backlash the video received resulted in him feeling so threatened by the public he was scared to leave his own house.
Jacques Englebert, Mpasa's lawyer, said in response to the defamation suit: 'We have the right to express ourselves. We have the right to post or have posted a video on the internet. In this case, we must check whether we have exceeded the limits of this freedom of expression.'
The two parties are expected to meet for the first time on November 18, and the trial is expected to take place in the first half of 2022.
During the footage, which was shared online last year, the cyclist was seen emerging from a bend in the snowy road before knocking into the young girl and sending her toppling into the snow.
Furious father Patrick Mpasa, who had been filming his wife and two children, later shared the video on social media asking if people agreed that he was right to complain to the police.
Mpasa said he had chased after the man and managed to make him stop but the cyclist had been unrepentant.
'He explained what happened and asked us to withdraw the police complaint, but he showed no remorse and did not apologise,' said Mpasa.
'A lot of people tell me that I should have hit him, but I don't agree and, in any case, I was in front of my children, which would have made things even worse for them. I also don't want a witch hunt, I just want him to apologise.'
The family soon filed a complaint with police and both the cyclist and any witnesses were asked to come forward.
During a court hearing on February 3, 2020, the cyclist claimed that the incident had happened because he had tried to keep his balance.
He said: 'When I was riding close to the girl, I felt my rear wheel sliding. To avoid a fall, I balanced myself with a movement of my knee. I felt that I might have hit the girl, but did not immediately realise she had been knocked over.'
But the prosecution argued his statement seemed very unlikely, replying: 'He was simply annoyed by the people on the path whom he had to swerve around all the time.
'He gave the child a ''knee punch'' out of sheer annoyance because an obstacle was in his way for the umpteenth time.'
The local cyclist association described the man's behaviour as 'unacceptable', but the judge opted for lenient treatment, arguing that the man had no intention of harming the girl, the incident was minor and he had already been criticised on social media.
The judge went on to say that the cyclist had already spent time in custody when he was arrested, and ruled that the unnamed man must pay the girl's family a symbolic €1 (86p) in compensation for the incident.
While the cyclist had faced up to a year in prison, the court decided to hand him a suspended sentence, meaning he will not face any penalties for his actions so long as he does not reoffend.