Soldiers ordered to kill perpetrators in 1977 train hijacking: report

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Soldiers deployed to end the 20 day long hostage situation after Moluccans hijacked a train at De Punt in 1977, were told that the Moluccans must not leave the train alive, the lawyer of one of the soldiers said to broadcaster NOS. 

The soldier was involved in the rescue operation. During a briefing before they stormed the hijacked train, a "government representative" told them that none of the hijackers can survive the assault, according to the lawyer. The soldier wants to remain anonymous. But he gave his lawyer permission to tell his story. The lawyer drafted a statement last week, which he is willing to repeat in court under oath.

The lawyer in question, Jos Rijser, spent a lot of time with the soldier when he represented him. Rijser now represents two relatives of killed Moluccan hijackers in a lawsuit against the Dutch state.

"Back then he (the soldier, ed.) told me that on the eve of the train's liberation at De Punt there was a briefing for the soldiers. At this briefing an appropriate authority, who traveled especially from The Hague on behalf of the government, made clear  that it is the wish of the government that not a single hijacker should survive", the lawyer says in his statement, according to NOS.

The question of whether or not soldiers were told to execute the hijackers is something that's been bothering the Moluccan community for years. The debate restarted in 2013 when journalist Jan Beckers and hijacker Junus Ririmasse managed to have the autopsy reports on the dead hijackers published. This was followed by a major investigation by the Dutch state.

The autopsies revealed that at least two hijackers were shot at close range, and not from outside as always claimed. It also revealed that the soldiers used special ammunition - so-called hollow point cartridges.

Dries van Agt, Minster of Justice at the time of the hijacking, refused to respond to this latest allegation. He referred NOS to his response two years ago when he refuted rumors that the soldiers had orders to kill the hijackers. "It is completely unknown to me. I've never heard of it. I therefore find it hard to believe. I know noting about it, so I deny it. Based on the knowledge I have", Van Agt said two years ago.

The Ministry of Security and Justice also refused to comment on the lawyer's statement, because the case is still in court.

Rijser's statement is the third to suggest that the soldiers in the rescue mission were ordered to kill the Mollucan hijackers, and that hijackers were killed after they were disabled or surrendered.

A former volunteer at the SOS hotline in Groningen recently said that she once received a call from a man in the midst of a panic attack, according to NOS. He told her that he was a member of a special unit in the rescue operation.

"What I'm 100 percent sure of is this. This man spoke Malay. When he and the other commandos stormed the train, one of the hijackers put his hands up and shouted in Malay that he surrendered. the man who called me was face to face with the hijacker and he quoted verbatim what the man said in Malay. But the next moment the hijacker was riddled with bullets. The man who told me this still has serious problems with his conscience because of the events in which someone with his hands up was killed." the SOS volunteer said, according to the broadcaster.

Before that the son of a former employee of a police call center stated that his father told him the government gave the order to gun down the hijackers. "My father told me the following by telephone: at one point a secret message came through the control room that on the orders of minister Van Agt no South Moluccan terrorists may leave the train alive under any circumstances", the son said, according to NOS. "Particularly, I remember this well, Van Agt emphazised that the then 17-year-old girl that was part of this group could not leave the train alive under any circumstances."