14 January 2004
BRUSSELS – More than 600 witnesses may be called to give evidence during the long-awaited trial of Marc Dutroux, Belgium’s most infamous suspected child killer, according to Belgian media reports.
The country’s French language state broadcaster RTBF says that between them, defence and prosecution lawyers could question hundreds of people during the hearing, which is set to open on 1 March in the city of Arlon, in southwest Belgium near the border with Luxembourg.
Dutroux’s lawyers alone have called 300 separate witnesses while the state prosecution service has named a further 200. For their part lawyers acting for Dutroux’s presumed associates, Michelle Martin, Michel Lelievre and Michel Nihoul – who will stand trail alongside Dutroux — have asked to hear a further 100 people.
Dutroux’s lawyers argue the need to defend their client is only one of the reasons they have decided to call so many witnesses. They also say they intend to shed light on what they insist have been serious failings in the way investigations have been carried out both prior to and following their client’s 1996 arrest.
As part of this strategy they have called on former Belgian justice ministers Melchior Wathelet and Stefaan Declerq to give evidence at the trial. They also want Marc Verwhiligen, the man who chaired a parliamentary enquiry into the Dutroux case, to attend.
Dutroux was arrested in 1996 and charged with the murder of four young girls. He is also accused of the rape of two others found alive together at one of his properties.
His arrest sparked a wave of public shock and fury about the failings of Belgium’s justice system that is still being felt today.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news