Dutch govt. releases transcriptions of 1977 train hijacking

Hostage situation at De Punt (day 14), negotiators leave
Hostage situation at De Punt (day 14), negotiators leavePeters, Hans / AnefoWikimedia CommonsCC-0

Relatives of killed Moluccan train hijackers received transcriptions of sound recordings made when soldiers stormed the hijacked train at De Punt in 1977. A number of soldiers were carrying recording equipment, intended for training purposes. The Netherlands Forensic Institute transcribed the recordings after the court ordered this done, NOS reports.

The transcriptions now form part of a lawsuit between relatives of killed hijackers Max Papilaja and Hansina Uktolseja and the Dutch state. The relatives claim the soldiers executed the hijackers while they were severely injured and disabled. 

The question is whether the sound recordings made during the liberation of the train on June 11th, 1977 will shed any new light on what happened. The transcription does not include everything that was said. According of the NFI, some pieces of conversation were not understandable. The transcribers marked these unintelligible words as [...] in the transcription.

According to lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops, representing the soldiers, the transcriptions don't show that the soldiers executed the hijackers. As the transcriptions are not complete and it is not always clear who said what, the recodings do not provide a complete picture of what happened when the soldiers stormed the hijacked train, he said, according to the broadcaster. 

The lawyer also said that account must be taken of the circumstances under which the soldiers acted. "It was one of the first anti-terrorist operations in the Netherlands. And more importantly, it was a military operation, not a police mission. The goal of the soldiers was to release the hostages, and if all else failed, to take out the terrorists." Knoops added that nowhere on the recordings can be heard that the hijackers surrendered. 

According to the relatives' lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, the recordings reinforce the suspicion that Pailaja and Uktolseja were shot at close range by soldiers, while they were already wounded and disabled. On the recordings phrases like "give him a mercy shot" can be heard, NOS reports. On another piece of recording someone asks: "This one's dead?" Another answers: "Yes, now." This is followed by laughter. Someone says: "Quietly forward." There are more shots until someone shouts "stop". The attack leader speaks up. "Boys", he says. Presumably to call the group to order, according to Zegveld.

The hijackers who survived the liberation of the train were placed in a line on the rails. "Let them lie down, okay, stay with them. If one of them makes a wrong [...], you shoot them", one soldier can be heard saying. The assault leader adds: "If they goddamn tremble too muh, you shoot them."

Zegveld called the released transcriptions shocking. "It takes you back to the train in 1977". According to her, the transcriptions emphasize the need of making a timeline reconstruction based on all available video footage, photos and sound recordings. The state is against such a reconstruction.