Moluccan train hijackers had to die, new witnesses say

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Three new witnesses came forward in the trial around the hijacking of a train at De Punt in 1977. The three new witnesses, former officers, say that soldiers who stormed the hijacked train were ordered not to take the Moluccan hijackers prisoner, but to shoot and kill them, the Volkskrant reports.

An anonymous former marine said the same thing last year. This former marine was involved in storming primary school Bovensmilde, which was occupied at the same time as the train hijacking. What role the three new witnesses played is not clear. 

According to the new witnesses, a commander said on several occasions that he was ordered from above to make sure that the hijackers would not become prisoners, because "it was not the intention that the hijackers would appear in court". This commander, who was then the captain of the marines, led the soldiers who liberated primary school Bovensmilde. The storming of the hijacked train and the school was considered one military operation.

One of the new witnesses says that the captain found it "morally reprehensible" to execute caught hijackers in a primary school. He therefore handed them over to the judiciary instead, ignoring his orders. This is one of the reasons hijackers were killed in the train, but not in the school, according to the witnesses. 

Based on these new testimonies, lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who is representing the relatives of two killed hijackers, wants to question four commanders involved in the liberation operation under oath. She also wants to question former general Henk van den Breemen and former Justice Minister Dries van Agt as witnesses. As Minister of Justice at the time, Van Agt was politically responsible for the operation.

"It was two missions with the same order. If the court wants to clarify what happened, you have to put the commanders to the question", Zegveld said to broadcaster NOS. According to the lawyer, too much emphasis was placed on the testimonies of soldiers who were on the train. "Those few seconds on the train will not clarify this matter. The truth is on a higher level."

Witnesses stated that the order to kill the hijackers came from Minister Van Agt. The former Minister previously stated that he does not remember this. He now told the Volkskrant that it is "impossible", "unthinkable" and "excluded".

The Ministry of Defense has not yet responded to what the three new witnesses said.

This case will continue in court on May 29th. 

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