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Belgium restricts parole after outcry over Dutroux ex-wife

Belgium will tighten conditions for the granting of parole to serious criminal offenders after a public outcry over the release from prison of the ex-wife of a serial paedophile killer.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo’s government moved to speed up a reform of the penal code that will lengthen the minimum penalty, nine days after Michelle Martin, notorious accomplice of Marc Dutroux, checked into a convent that she now calls home after her early release from jail.

Martin, 52, entered the monastery after Belgium’s highest court green-lighted her controversial parole midway through a 30-year prison term

The six parties making up Di Rupo’s centre-left government agreed that defendants sentenced to life or 30 years in prison must serve half their term before they can ask for conditional release, rather than a third now.

Martin had made several parole requests after serving a third of her sentence.

Under the new rules repeat offenders will have to serve at least three-quarters rather than two-thirds of their sentence.

In Martin’s case the public prosecutor had complained that it was legally impossible to appeal the decision to grant her parole.

Di Rupo hopes to have the reform adopted by parliament this year.

Martin was granted parole on August 28 after 16 years in prison for allowing two children to starve to death, on condition that she move into the convent.

Dutroux was jailed for life in 2004 for the kidnap and rape between 1995 and 1996 of six girls, and the murder of four of his victims, in one of the darkest episodes in Belgium’s criminal history.

Martin, a former schoolteacher who was detained in 1996, was also sentenced in 2004 for helping him hold the girls captive and for complicity in the deaths of two of them found starved to death in a locked cellar.

Martin married Dutroux in 1983 and had three children with him before they divorced in 2003. Both had served time in the early years of their marriage for previous kidnappings.