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Dutroux defence callsformer justice minister

9 March 2004

BRUSSELS – Lawyers defending Belgium’s suspected child murderer Marc Dutroux on Tuesday said they want to cross-examine the country’s former justice minister Marc Verwilghen.

Dutroux is currently on trial in the Belgian city of Arlon, charged with kidnapping six girls and murdering four of them. One of his lawyers, Xavier Magnee, argued on Tuesday morning that Verwilghen could prove to be a vital defence witness.

It is not the first time Dutroux’s lawyers have called Verwilghen to the witness stand, but so far the Belgian authorities have refused to let the former minister testify.

Stephane Goux, the judge presiding over the Dutroux trial, said on Tuesday that he would consider Magnee’s latest request and make a decision at a later date.

Verwilghen chaired a major parliamentary enquiry into the events that led up to Dutroux’s arrest in 1996. The hearings revealed monumental levels of police bungling and an appalling lack of co-ordination between the country’s different law enforcement services.

Magnee argues that Verwilghen will be able to provide vital information about these failings that could help him to defend Dutroux.

“If there is one man who knows more than anyone, it is Verwilghen. We must leave no stone unturned. If the court refuses, we will all have to answer to public opinion,” Magnee said on Tuesday.

Later on Tuesday, Jaques Langlois, the public prosecutor who handled the vast bulk of the investigation into Dutroux’s alleged crimes took the witness stand again.

He was questioned about the day Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo disappeared. The two were later found starved to death in a secret cell at one of Dutroux’s houses.

The trial continues.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news