Advocate general: quash Schiphol fire conviction

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The Amsterdam court that last year convicted a Libyan national of starting a fire that in 2005 killed 11 immigrants in a prison near Schiphol airport must reverse its verdict, recommends the advocate general of the Supreme Court, as it consider an appeal against the ruling.

Last year, the Amsterdam court convicted Ahmed al-J. surname withheld of starting the fire at the Schiphol airport detention centre. The prosecution claimed the fire started in the suspect's cell after he threw away a cigarette.

The court ruled, however, that the man was not responsible for the fatal consequences of the fire and sentenced him to 18 months in prison, which he had already spent in pre-trial detention. Two weeks after the verdict, he was expelled from the country.

Insufficient According to the advocate general of the Supreme Court, the court partially based its conviction on an expert report which, in turn, drew on a report compiled by the Dutch Safety Board. The advocate general argues that such a procedure is not lawful.

Furthermore, the advocate general considers that the evidence that was presented to prove that the arson had been premeditated was insufficient. He also regards the court's refusal to allow the defence to hear an expert witness as insufficiently motivated.

The findings presented by the advocate general to the Supreme Court have an advisory nature. The Supreme Court does, however, tend adopt the advocate general's advices. The Supreme Court will rule on the appeal lodged by Mr Al-J. on 14 December.

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