Fears grow for British hunger striker in Holland
22 November 2004, AMSTERDAM — Fears are growing for the health of British businessman Kevin Sweeney, who has been on hunger strike in a Dutch jail for over 120 days.
22 November 2004
AMSTERDAM — Fears are growing for the health of British businessman Kevin Sweeney, who has been on hunger strike in a Dutch jail for over 120 days.
Campaigning to have a conviction for murdering his wife overturned, Sweeney has signed a declaration stating he does not want doctors to revive him when he loses consciousness.
Sweeney, 54, stopped taking two mineral drinks a day on 29 October and is surviving on just water and weak tea with sugar.
He told Expatica earlier this month that he was prepared to die if he is not given the right to a fair trial. The Dutch authorities, he said, have frustrated his every effort to get a fair trial.
The authorities deny this and say his trial was conducted according to the rules.
Lawyer Sabine Zanker of Fair Trials Abroad has warned his condition will deteriorate swiftly. "I am deeply concerned he could die within a few days."
The Dutch authorities say that Sweeney, 44, will only be moved from his jail cell in Vught Prison to a prison hospital when he loses consciousness.
Traditionally, Dutch doctors are reluctant to disregard the wishes of a hunger striker who has signed a statement saying he or she does not wish to be treated once they slip into a coma. Most prisoners who embark on a hunger strike, however, end it before reaching that stage.
Zanker has said that Sweeney, who normally weighs 68 kilos, has lost about 20 kilos and "can't really lose anymore". Sweeney suspended his hunger strike for about 10 days in September. He resumed it and accused the Dutch authorities of reneging on a deal.
Fair Trials Abroad is a lobby group for EU citizens convicted overseas who claim with merit that the charges against them are unfounded. The group believes Sweeney did not get a fair trial by the Dutch legal system when he was convicted and sentenced to 13 years for murdering his third wife, Suzanne Davies.
Sweeney came to the Netherlands in the mid-1990s to open a CD manufacturing plant in in the southern Dutch of Eindhoven, best known as the headquarters of electronics giant Philips.
Davies, 35, died of smoke inhalation after her bed caught fire in the couple's home in Steensel in the south of the Netherlands on the night of 16 July 1995. Sweeney was arrested and accused of committing arson in order to claim GBP 635,000 (now EUR 904,000) in life insurance.
He was initially tried and acquitted of the murder charge in October 1996. But unlike the double jeopardy prohibition in the UK and the US, Dutch law allows the prosecution to appeal for a second trial if it can produce new evidence.
Following one of the longest running criminal cases in the Netherlands, Sweeney was re-tried and convicted in February 2001.
He lost his appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court in November 2002 and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rejected a further appeal, ruling that not all domestic remedies in the Netherlands had been exhausted.
Sweeney claims his case was mishandled by both the prosecutors and the Dutch courts at every stage of his case.
He says the prosecution's account of the fire is scientifically impossible.
The prosecution alleged the fire had been lit using turpentine and this resulted in a 'flashover' fire which would have reached temperatures of 900 degrees centigrade. Sweeney's supporters point out that a newspaper which was 60 centimetres from the bed was not even burned.
Sweeney began his hunger strike in July in order to force the authorities to give him access to his legal dossiers, legal books, and a computer to allow him to review thousands of pages of forensic material supplied to him by the US Department of Justice, as well as US and British government experts.
British Foreign Office officials last visited Sweeney in his cell on 10 November. A spokesman said Sweeney's condition gave cause for concern but the Foreign Office staff is restricted to a welfare role.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news