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400 join black march against possible conditional release of child killer Marc Dutroux
About 400 people dressed in black gathered in Brussels city centre on Sunday afternoon in protest at the eventual conditional release of paedophile and child killer Marc Dutroux and the release already of his accomplice Michel Lelièvre.
The "black march" took place 23 years after the white march – one of the biggest mass demonstrations in the history of Belgium – that followed Dutroux’s arrest in 1996.
Organisers and police had expected thousands to attend. There were no reported incidents: organisers of the march had indicated on their Facebook page that they would not tolerate the demonstration getting out of hand, threatening to exclude any troublemakers from the group.
"No freedom for child killers" was one of the signs on display. Some protestors also carried teddy bears - and several children were present in the march.
"We want a real life sentence," said one organiser. "We want children to be protected from these people. If they kill again, we would all be responsible for letting it happen."
On 20 October 1996, around 300,000 people took to the streets of Brussels following the arrest of Marc Dutroux and the abandonment of a wider enquiry. Amid claims of corruption, the affair deeply shocked the nation. The mass protest was directed at Dutroux, the police, justice system and politicians, as well as being a public show of sympathy for the victim’s families.
Two girls were freed from Dutroux’s basement following his arrest and the dead bodies of four other kidnapped girls were discovered, including Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, both eight-years-old.
The colour white and the silence of the 1996 demonstration were requested by the families as symbols of hope, dignity and innocence. In contrast, the colour black chosen for this Sunday’s procession is intended as a sign of grief.
In 2004, Dutroux’s accomplice Michel Lelièvre was sentenced to 25 years in prison and released conditionally on 30 September after a total of 23 years of incarceration. Dutroux was sentenced to life imprisonment in the same year. Controversy surrounds the question of his eventual release from Nivelles prison.
A tribunal considered a request for a new psychiatric assessment on 62-year-old Dutroux on Thursday. A decision is due on 28 October. If accepted, his lawyers could ask for a conditional release in 2021. Previously diagnosed psychopathic, the assessment of Dutroux would also consider his risk of re-offending.
Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga