Four life sentences in underworld assassinations trial

The court in Amsterdam sentenced four suspects to life in prison in the appeal of the so-called Passage process, which revolves around a number of Amsterdam underworld assassinations. Dino Soerel, Jesse R., Mohammed R. and Siegfried S. will all spend the rest of their lives in prison, the court ruled, NOS reports.

When this case was first tried in 2013, Soerel was sentenced to only six months in prison for money laundering, he was acquitted for his role in the assassinations. The other three already had life sentences hanging over their heads.

Five other suspects were sentenced to between 5.5 and 14 yeas in prison. The sentences were higher than what the Public Prosecutor demanded in the appeal. The court wanted to show its disgust about  the "compelling coldness and lack of conscience" with which the assassinations were prepared and executed. One suspect was acquitted.

Incriminating statements made by key witnesses Peter la S. and Fred Ros were crucial evidence in this case. The court found their statements reliable, unlike the suspects' defense, because the statements correspond with other information in the file. As they came forward as witnesses, the Public Prosecutor asked that their sentences be halved. The court agreed. La S. was sentenced to 8 years in prison, instead of 16 and Ros got 14 instead of 28. 

As Ros' already spent the same amount or more time in custody than his sentence, he was freed immediately. The same happened with two other convicts. The Public Prosecutor placed Ros and La S. in a witness protection program.

This trial revolved around five murders in 1993 and two assassinations in 2005 and  2006, according to

In 1993 two young Yugoslavians were killed. The burnt bodies of Djordje Ilic and Samir Hadziselimovic were found in a parking lot in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. In April of that year Amsterdam gym owner Tonnie van Maurik was shot dead in his car in front of the Altea Hotel in Amsterdam Zuid. Drug and diamond trafficker Henie Shael and his Belgian girlfriend Anne de Witte were also killed in 1993. The Prosecutor believes De Witte was killed because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The trial also included the assassinations of Kees Houtman in 2005 and Thomas van der Bijl in 2006. 

The statements of the key witnesses, among other things, led the court to the conclusion that Soerel and Willem Holleeder ordered the deaths of Houtman and Van der Bijl. Holleeder did not stand trial on Wednesday, he is being held accountable in a separate trial. But the court's ruling is bad news for him, because the Amsterdam court found Ros's statement on Holleeder's role in these assassinations reliable. It is unlikely that another court will find differently.

The Passage process is the longest running lawsuit ever in the Netherlands, it's been running for 10 years and the suspects and Public Prosecutor can still appeal to the Supreme Court. The convicts include order givers, intermediaries and assassins. The process initially included 12 suspects, but two of them died in the meantime - Ali A. was assassinated in Istanbul in 2014 and another died of natural causes.