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Thursday, November 6, 1997 Published at 15:56 GMT

Despatches: Europe
David Eades
From Brussels

The European Parliament has called on Belgian's judge at the European Court of Justice and former Belgium Justice Minister, Melchior Wathelet, to resign. The parliament criticised Mr Wathelet for his role while he was the Belgian Justice Minister when he allowed a convicted child rapist to be released early from prison only for him to become the chief suspect in Belgian's worst paedophile and murder case. David Eades reports from Brussels:

"It was Melchior Wathelet who in 1992 was the Belgian Justice Minister, authorised the release of Mark Dutroux, a convicted child rapist, less than half way through his 13 year sentence. Dutroux is now in detention again awaiting trial in a kidnap and paedophile case in which at least four girls were murdered and buried on property he owned. Despite coming under intense criticism at the time of Dutroux's arrest, Mr Wathelet was still appointed to the European Court as the Belgian government's representative and only last month was reconfirmed in the post for a six-year period. The European Parliament accepted that Mr Wathelet acted entirely in accordance with Belgian law in granting Dutroux an early release but urged him to take account of what it called the special political and moral responsibility. The parliament has no authority to force his resignation but its demand fully supported by families of the victims carrys moral weight. Despite a litany of criticisms and accusations levelled at the Belgian police, magistrates and the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, no senior official or politician has yet resigned over the Dutrox affair. Mr Wathelet is coming under increasing pressure to become the first public figure to pay for his role in an episode which has deeply scarred Belgian society."

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