Trial of Nigerian traffickers begins
Underage Nigerian girls were brought into the Netherlands, funneled through the asylum system, only to disappear into prostitution.
THE HAGUE—An international gang allegedly involved in large-scale people trafficking has gone on trial in the northern town of Zwolle. The ten suspects are accused of recruiting scores of girls in Nigeria and smuggling them into Europe using forged travel documents.
The girls arrived in the Netherlands as unaccompanied underage asylum seekers, a category of immigrants that is usually not turned away at the border. They were accommodated in reception centres, but many of them disappeared from there without trace. Gang members are suspected of having taken the girls to Italy, Spain and France, and forcing them to work as prostitutes.
The people traffickers are said to have used voodoo magic and traditional Nigerian curses to control the girls. Most of the girls are still unaccounted for. The gang was disbanded after a large-scale international police investigation, code-named "Pollack", in six European countries, in close collaboration with Nigeria and the United States.
The Zwolle court's verdict is not expected until May. In the first session, one of the defending lawyers demanded the replacement of all judges, accusing them of prejudice. The lawyer is objecting to the judges because they had said the suspects had access to forged travel documents, which has not yet been proved.
The lawyer's request was rejected, because the protest was submitted far too late. The court argued that the disputed statement dates back to 3 December 2008, which was when the defending lawyer should have lodged his complaint.