Defense accused of influencing witnesses in 1977 train hijacking case

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

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld is pressing charges against the Ministry of Defense for preparing and influencing former soldiers on what to say when they testified in a case surrounding the deaths of two hijackers during the liberation of a hijacked train at De Punt in 1977. According to the lawyer, the soldiers' testimony can not be believed because Defense prepared them for what to say beforehand, the Telegraaf reports. 

Zegveld handed a 120 page analysis of the soldiers' statements to the court in The Hague in the lawsuit filed by the family members of killed hijackers Max Papilaja and Hansina Uktolseja. The family members want to know exactly what happened when soldiers were sent into the train to end a three week long hostage situation. They believe that the killings of Papilaja and Uktolseja were unlawful, because they were already visibly wounded and defenseless. 

In September and October a total of 11 former soldiers involved in this action gave statements and were questioned about what happened in 1977. Audio recordings of the action were played. According to Zegveld, it is unbelievable that the soldiers say they don't recognize their own statements and actions on these recordings. That is serious, because their testimony deviates from what can be heard on the recordings at important points, the lawyer said. 

According to Zegveld, this is because the soldiers were able to listen to the tapes in advance and in this way prepare their statements. Zegveld says that Defense was wrong to give these tapes to lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops, who played them to the soldiers. This confirms her her suspicion that the soldiers were not free to give statements unhindered. Defense wanted to make sure the soldiers had their stories straight, se said.

Zegveld also finds the instruction on when to use violence in 1977 a crucial point. This instruction was that if the "terrorists" visibly surrendered, they had to be arrested. But nothing was said about what had to be done with injured hijackers who could no longer surrender. The soldiers were also given an oral instruction to get rid of the hijackers. For a soldier that means: shoot for the torso, they said in court. According to Zegeld, it is clear that the instruction on when to use violence was in conflict with the European Convention of Human Rights.