Dutroux ex-wife's jail limbo as France rejects asylum

11th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Michelle Martin, the accomplice and ex-wife of notorious Belgian child killer Marc Dutroux, could remain behind bars for weeks after France balked Wednesday at taking her in.

Following Belgium's decision not to appeal a court order granting Martin her freedom barely halfway through a 30-year sentence, a cross-border outcry sprang up as Martin indicated she wanted to resettle in a French convent.

"For my part, I have no intention of saying 'yes'," French Justice Minister Michel Mercier told AFP as he emerged from cabinet talks in Paris, leaving stunned Brussels authorities puzzling over what to do with the 51-year-old. Martin is the mother of three of jailed paedophile Dutroux's children.

In Liege, the father of one of the couple's victims, Jean-Denis Lejeune, told AFP the French government would be adopting a "wise" position were that to be its final decision. France and its convents should not be seen as "Belgium's judicial trash can," he said.

In difficult cases such as this, there needs to be "another level of justice" which would open up the sort of appeal avenue the local prosecutor concluded was simply not available following Martin's successful fourth bid for parole.

In a nation already reeling from a huge Catholic Church paedophilia scandal, the return of the grisly Dutroux affair has revived old nightmares. Vigilante demands opposing Martin's release were posted on a Facebook petition before being removed from the web.

For procedural reasons, Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck has to wait two weeks until lodging a formal request for an outside state to take a paroled prisoner, the Belgian government stressed.

"I think this is more a personal position, given he has not received an official request," De Clerck said of his French counterpart's comments.

He acknowledged however that Paris "clearly is under no obligation" despite a 1964 European convention that frames cooperation in cases where one state releases a national into the supervision of another.

Under the convention, Paris can refuse to take-in a parolee where it fears a threat to its security or vital interests.

Just weeks ago, France got its fingers burnt when it accepted the disgraced bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted molesting two nephews and accepted Vatican orders to undergo spiritual reflection in a monastery in the wine-rich Loire Valley, rather than face earthly justice.

Likewise, Belgium can postpone Martin's parole on the grounds that key conditions for her release are not yet fulfilled.

Dutroux was jailed for life in June 2004 for the kidnap and rape in the 1990s of six young and teenaged girls, four of whom died.

Martin was convicted of helping him hold his victims prisoner, and of complicity in the deaths of two of the girls, who were found starved to death in a locked cellar.

Police had missed a string of clues indicating Martin's involvement. She had previously served two years of a five-year sentence for an earlier conviction with Dutroux for the abduction and rape of another five girls.

© 2011 AFP

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