Fmr. soldiers accuse lawyer of slander 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

Dozens of former soldiers are pressing charges of defamation and slander against lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who is representing the relatives of hijackers killed in a train hijacking at De Punt in 1977. The relatives are suing the Dutch government, saying that the train was stormed with the intention to kill the hijackers.

Former soldier Jannes de Jong announced on Saturday that he is pressing charges against Zegveld, NOS reports. Since then around 40 of his former colleagues announced they are following his example. According to De Jong, Zegveld is conducting a "smear campaign" against him and his colleagues. "She sets us down as death squads of the government, as if we were ordered to kill. That is so unpalatable. We just did our job", he said, according to the broadcaster. 

This lawsuit revolves around the Dutch government's actions in 1977. A group of Moluccans hijacked a train at De Punt and occupied a nearby primary school in Bovensmilde. After a hostage situation that lasted three weeks, the government decided to intervene with force. Six hijackers and two hostages were killed in the train. The school was liberated without any casualties. 

De Jong calls the lawsuit "undeserved". He was involved in liberating the school in 1977. "There was no order from above to kill the hijackers", he said, according to the broadcaster. Though he acknowledged that he can not know this for certain, as his orders may have been different from those his colleagues sent to the train received. 

Lawyer Zegveld responded to the charges on Saturday. According to her, the ongoing lawsuit, which started two years ago, is aimed at the Dutch government and not at individual soldiers. She intends to clarify exactly what orders the government gave to the soldiers.

On Wednesday the court will decide whether more information is needed in this case, and whether more witnesses need to be called. Former Prime Minister Dries Van Agt said last week that he wants to testify if called.