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Jail terms sought in ‘voodoo curse’ prostitution trial

The Hague — Dutch prosecutors sought prison sentences of up to eight years on Tuesday for 10 Nigerians accused of using voodoo curses to force about 140 Nigerian girls into prostitution in Europe.

"The prosecution asked for eight years’ imprisonment for the two leaders of the group and between one and four years for seven others," prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.

"Release was requested for a tenth suspect for a lack of evidence."

The trial, on charges of human trafficking and membership of a criminal organisation, opened in March in Zwolle in the central Netherlands.

Prosecutors claim that about 140 Nigerian girls brought by the gang into the Netherlands as asylum seekers had disappeared from asylum centres in 2006 and 2007.

About a dozen of the girls were traced, while the rest were thought to have been forced into prostitution in Italy, Spain and France. Most were minors at the time, their ages ranging from 16 to 23.

The Netherlands allegedly served as a transit point for the girls, sent by the suspects from Nigeria with false identity papers and instructions for an asylum application.

"The suspects used voodoo to influence the girls," said a prosecution statement. "They had to give blood, nails or a piece of clothing and make a promise to a voodoo priest to repay the ‘debts’ incurred for their travel to Europe" — between 30,000 (44,400 dollars) and 60,000 euros each.

"That means that they would have had to have forced sex about 3,000 times and give up the proceeds. In a foreign country, far from home, with no way out — living with the fear of going crazy or dying if they disobey their handlers," said the statement.

The suspects were arrested in the Netherlands in October 2007 after an investigation by Dutch police in collaboration with their Nigerian, Italian, Spanish, French, Belgian, British, Irish and US counterparts.

An 11th suspect, a citizen of Suriname, will stand trial separately later this month. Judgment for the entire group will be handed down on December 3.