State pays highest damages to date

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The Dutch State has to pay Andy Melaan $1.3 million (around €930,000) because he was wrongly imprisoned for eight years on Bonaire. It is the highest payout of damages for a miscarriage of justice to date, the Volkskrant reports.

In the same murder case, Nozai Thomas, who was sentenced to four years, will receive almost $680,000 (€490,000). This has been decided by the court on Bonaire, Friday.

According to the court on Bonaire, the Dutch Public Prosecution Authority (OM) was not prepared to negotiate a compensation sum. The cleared men had to go through litigation. This justifies a payout of damages that is higher than normal, the court say.

In 2005, Melaan (35) and Thomas (27) were sentenced to 24 and eight years cell time for a murder that they did not commit. The men were cleared of the charges on the 15th of November. Their case is the sixth miscarriage of justice under Dutch law of this century. Their lawyer, Geert-Jan Knoops, says that the men are victims of the difference in laws between The Netherlands and Bonaire.

Knoops says that the men suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and that their lives are "irreparably broken." Melaan was stuck in a police dungeon for six weeks, isolated from the outside world. A means to break him mentally, Knoops states. His daughters don't know their father anymore. In 2008, Melaan attempted suicide.

"We are very disappointed in the way the State handled the wishes of our clients to come to rehabilitation", Knoops says. In The Netherlands, it takes two to three months for miscarriages of justice to be financially compensated with the victims. Melaan and Thomas waited five months, and even then it wasn't over. Melaan was housed in The Netherlands after his clearance. It took five months for his benefits allowance to become available. The debts he had built up to that time are much higher than his income.

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