Expat hunger striker considers ending fast

1st December 2004, Comments 0 comments

1 December 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Convicted murderer and British expat Kevin Sweeney was to decide Thursday whether to abandon his hunger strike with the promise that he might soon be transferred from a Dutch to a Belgian prison cell.

1 December 2004

AMSTERDAM — Convicted murderer and British expat Kevin Sweeney was to decide Thursday whether to abandon his hunger strike with the promise that he might soon be transferred from a Dutch to a Belgian prison cell.

UK-based Fair Trials Abroad lawyer Sabine Zanker said the Dutch Justice Ministry would reconsider Sweeney's application for a transfer if defence lawyers presented assurances they would not apply for early release under Belgium law.

In the Netherlands, Sweeney is required to serve at least two-thirds of his 12 and half year sentence, but under Belgium law, criminals can apply for early release after serving just one-third of their jail term.

Zanker said Sweeney — who has been on a hunger strike intermittently since July and is being detained in the Scheveningen penitentiary jail — was not "jumping for joy", but saw promise in the ministry's new stance.

He assured Zanker on Wednesday that he would reconsider his position overnight and give a decision on Thursday.

But the Justice Ministry refused to grant Sweeney's application for access to a computer based on a December 2001 order preventing prisoners from gaining the use of a computer. Sweeney was hoping to gain access to a computer to assist in his campaign to gain a Supreme Court review of his case.

Sweeney was convicted on appeal in February 2001 of murdering his wife, British expat Suzanne Davies, in a house fire in Steensel in the south of the Netherlands in 1995 to gain her insurance money. He had previously been acquitted of the crime.

But Sweeney maintains his innocence and Zanker said if he was to be transferred to a Belgian jail he would continue the fight to clear his name. He currently has four years and eight months to serve before being eligible for early release under Dutch law.

Zanker also said the defence was hoping that Belgium authorities would provide evidence to the Netherlands that prisoners serving more than 10 years jail do not gain early release until two-thirds of their sentence has been served. This is different to the one-third early release programme.

She also said that she was "reasonably confident" that Dutch authorities would then agree to the transfer.

Sweeney's current wife lives in Belgium and a transfer would thus bring them closer together. She visited Sweeney — whose hands and fingers have gone numb due to his hunger strike — on Wednesday afternoon. "He was in good spirits," said Zanker, who also visited Sweeney on Wednesday.

In other news, Sweeney was moved from a punishment cell to a normal cell at 1pm Wednesday. He had previously been detained in the permanently lit cell which Zanker said was designed to break a hunger striker's spirit. "I think it is very cruel," she said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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