Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 10 February 2009

10th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands for the latest news in the Netherlands.

Massive hit-men trial kicks off

All of today's papers cover the first day of what has been dubbed "the hit-men trial." The case involves 11 suspects charged in connection with a series of assassinations or attempted assassinations in the Amsterdam underworld between 1993 and 2006, in which seven people were killed. The Public Prosecutors have courted controversy by cutting a deal with one of the suspected killers in exchange for his testimony.

NRC Handelsblad and nrc-next profile the team of lawyers defending the suspects, characterising them in suitably dramatic terms as "the Matriarch," "the Tango Dancer," "the Hotshot" and "the Cyclist." The paper describes how they cope with the pressure of such a massive case. "We lunch together whenever we can…law can be a lonely profession…it's important to us to talk things over…and there's a plentiful supply of wine for when we need to blow off some steam."

The paper describes them as "united by a deep mistrust of the justice department" and goes on to reveal how this attitude caused "the atmosphere in the courtroom to sink to rock bottom within 30 minutes.”

The lawyers' questions regarding the judges hearing the case met with a stern rebuke from one of them: "Your mistrust is casting doubt on this entire court. This is the first time I have encountered such a state of affairs; A most worrying development for the justice system in the Netherlands." With a verdict due in March 2010 at the earliest, it looks like this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.

Low-fat options bad for children?

Never mind obesity. AD reports on concerns among doctors that some young children are not being fed enough calories by their overly concerned parents. Low-fat spreads and 'lite' drinks may be fine for weight-conscious adults, but not for a growing child.

As one doctor explains: "Of course you have to watch what young children eat, but kids under six need to eat fat ... it's a simple as that. We encourage parents to give their kids full-fat yoghurt."

The paper interviews one parent who was taken aback by the advice she received when she took her child to the local health centre. "It took some getting used to because we are healthy eaters. We never have margarine in the house, never mind butter. You read so much about obesity and we're determined that's not going to happen to us."

Strangely enough such health conscious parents may be having an adverse effect on the general eating habits of their offspring by only feeding them low-fat products. "If your child only eats low-calorie products it could well disrupt their system. It means they eat and eat without ever really feeling full. That can give the wrong signal to a growing body."

Refuge for male domestic abuse victims

De Volkskrant and Trouw feature articles on four new shelters opened in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht for male victims of domestic abuse. The paper reports that men who suffer abuse come in all shapes and sizes: from the native Dutch and ethnic communities as well as men in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships, who suffer physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their partner.

De Volkskrant tells the tale of 'Adam' a man from the Middle East who was forced to flee his violent and tyrannical father-in-law whom he had reported to the police for sexually abusing his daughters. Unfortunately for Adam, cases such as his are among the most difficult to solve: "We can do a great deal to help" says one of the men behind the initiative "but honour crimes are among the most difficult to cope with."

Trouw points out the differences between the way abused men and women deal with their plight. The director of The Hague branch of the project explains: "Sit a group of women around the kitchen table and they soon start to talk about their problems but with men it's different. Even once they've got over the shame of admitting they need help, you still have to win their trust little by little."

All too often they turn to drink or drugs. The current shelters are a pilot project aimed at highlighting the extent of the problem but already people are asking if the 40 places currently available will be enough.

Weesp's parents worry in silence

De Telegraaf reveals that parents in the town of Weesp—not far from Amsterdam—are in a complete panic following news of a "serious threat" against local schools, playgroups and crèches.

It would appear that a number of schools and crèches received threats of an attack similar to the recent tragedy in Belgium, where a young man stormed into a crèche and stabbed and killed one adult and two children.

Police and the local authorities have called on all the local education facilities to keep their doors closed and be extra watchful when the children are playing outdoors. But at the same time they appear to be fuelling fears by refusing to reveal any details to parents.

"Their silence only adds to the mystery and the worry…We have a right to know what's going on," insists a spokesperson for a parents' organisation. The powers that be beg to differ, however. A local authority spokesman responds: "There is no right to information in the constitution or anywhere else…As for a moral right to know, that's a discussion I don't want to get into.…And, no, I'm not worried that our position will instill more fear in parents."

But with rumours already circulating among parents that a masked man appeared at the windows of a number of schools and crèches in the area last week, the wisdom of this tight-lipped approach remains to be seen. Let's hope the parents of Weesp won't need to be kept in the dark for too much longer.

Nadal hits the Netherlands

Rafael Nadal, the world's number one tennis player, is in Rotterdam for the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament and is attracting the requisite adulation.

AD reveals that tournament director and former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek moved heaven and earth to get Nadal to come and play…even to the point of allowing him to determine the type of balls to be used in the competition.

Nadal means 'bums on seats', which is probably why Krajicek admits frankly and rather unsportingly, "I hope we get to inscribe his name on the winners' board come Sunday."

Radio Netherlands/David Doherty/Expatica

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