Former SS-er Siert Bruins case dropped

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No image availableNL Times

The court in the German Hagen ruled Wednesday not to convict the Dutch war criminal, Siert Bruins, for murder.Too much information is missing to reach a verdict, and furthermore it was no longer possible to hear witnesses, according to judge Heike Hartmann-Garschagen. Bruins left the courtroom a free man.

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The court considered Bruins an accomplice to manslaughter, but the punishable deed has expired and conviction is not longer possible. Resistance fighter, Aldert Klaas Dijkema was murdered in September 1944 in Appingedam in Groningen.

Earlier, Bruins' lawyer, Klaus-Peter Kniffka, asked the court in the German city of Hagen for acquittal. According to Kniffka, Bruins did not actually shoot in September 1944, and he also didn't know at the time it was the intention to kill the 36-year-old resistance fighter.

Bruins did not understand at first that the judges were not going to impose any punishment upon him, according to Kniffka Thursday after the verdict. The judges came to the conclusion there was no evidence that Bruins is guilty of the murder of freedom fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema.

''I can understand that this is contrary to the sense of justice of some people, but you have to prove it anyway,'' said Kniffka. ''If the evidence is not there, you can not convict. And so the court did not. I'm satisfied.''

Bruins' lawyer knows there's a chance the Prosecution may appealing against the Bruins not being punished. ''However, I believe this verdict will also be upheld on appeal. I do not expect Bruins to still end up in jail.''

Bruins, who was employed by the Sicherheitsdienst in Delfzijl and surroundings, was sentenced to death in absentia after the war in the Netherlands. That sentence was later changed to life imprisonment.

At the time of the verdict Bruins had already fled to Germany, where he has lived ever since. Before the trial he denied that he was at the one who shot Dijkema dead from behind. Bruins, who was known as 'the beast of Appingedam' blamed it on his companion, August Neuhäuser.

The prosecutor demanded a lifelong sentence last month against the 92-year-old Bruins. He is the last living and free Dutch war criminal.

In the eighties Bruins spent five years in prison after being convicted of the murder of two Jewish brothers.

The German Prosecution decided last July to start a new investigation into Bruins' involvement in the murder of Dijkema. The trial against Bruins started in September, when it was determined that Bruins was healthy enough to stand trial. Doctors concluded he was not demented or severely depressed.

Bruins volunteered in World War II in the Waffen-SS and fought among others on the Eastern Front. He worked in the Netherlands for the German intelligence SD, a police department of the SS.