Dutch lawyers drop terrorism cases from fear of being banned from U.S.

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

Two Dutch lawyers decided to stop representing terrorism suspects. They withdrew from their current case and will also not represent suspected terrorists in the future. The reason for this is that several Dutch and Belgian lawyers were recently denied access to the United States. These were all lawyers who defended terrorism suspects, and the two Dutch lawyers fear that the same will happen to them, RTL Nieuws reports.

On Tuesday the American embassy in The Hague denied to the broadcaster that someone's occupation could be a reason to refuse entry to the U.S. 

"I do not want to be restricted in the possibilities to travel. If I keep doing this criminal case, that is a real risk", one of the two lawyers said to the broadcaster. "We're just doing our job. You won't keep a doctor who operated on a terrorist suspect out of America. Why then a lawyer? It is bizarre." 

They will continue to work as lawyers, but no longer on terrorism cases. "It goes against everything that I stand for as a lawyer. But if I continue, it will not only affect my own life, but also that of the people around me. I don't want that", one said.

The two lawyers each represented a suspect from the so-called '27 September cell' - a group of six men arrested in Arnhem and Weert in September last year on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack at an event in the Netherlands. The lawyers asked RTL not to publish their names.

Their colleague Serge Weening is one of the lawyers who was recently denied access to the United States. He suspects that his visa was denied because he regularly represents suspects of terrorist crimes, he said to RTL. Weening calls it "extremely worrying" that two of his colleagues now stopped defending terrorism suspects. "It is a violation of the rule of law that lawyers no longer feel free to give every suspect the legal aid to which he or she is entitled. But in the end, no lawyer wants to be on an American list of which you don't know what the consequences may be in the future."

Weening took over defending the two suspects from the 27 September cell which his colleagues dropped, was revealed during a hearing in Rotterdam on Wednesday. The trail against the six suspects will likely only start next year.