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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 16:49 GMT
Media condemns Dutroux senator
Belgium warden closes the gate of the Arlon jailhouse where Marc Dutroux is detained
The papers say the journalist should never have obtained access
Belgium's press has broadly condemned the illicit meeting between a journalist and the paedophile murder suspect Marc Dutroux - with anger focusing on the Flemish senator who enabled the encounter to take place.

Le Soir said the recorded interview, conducted by Flemish-language station VTM with the "complicity of senator Jean-Marie Dedecker", was an "insult to the judicial and political authorities".

The MP interfered in an investigation which is taking place and his intervention could strongly influence the rest of the procedure

La Libre Belgique

It noted that the interview gave Mr Dutroux the opportunity to portray himself as a victim.

The paper also cast doubt on the value of the suspect's accusations against the Belgian police and justice system, which he alleged had refused to investigate leads he provided them with.

No proof

"Paedophile networks? There is nothing to prove it", said Le Soir, attacking Mr Dutroux's "imprecise declarations" and pointing out that the suspect, who was arrested in 1996, had had more than five years to make public such allegations.

La Libre Belgique goes further, suggesting that the interview could delay Mr Dutroux's trial, which is scheduled for next year.

Mr Dutroux and a Belgian police officer
Le Soir: Mr Dutroux's allegations do not prove anything

The paper came down hard on Mr Dedecker - "who abused his parliamentary status" - and the Flemish Liberal Party (VLD), of which he is a member.

It says that while some leading members of the VLD, the main partner in Belgium's coalition, have described his behaviour as "unacceptable", the punishment being considered by the party's leadership - a reprimand - is "ridiculous".

The VLD, asserts the paper, is too scared to take tougher action against Mr Dedecker because he is a big vote-winner among the country's Flemish electorate.

If Mr Dedecker was ejected from the VLD, the paper continued, he might well sign up with the ultra-nationalist party Vlaams Blok - whose popularity is already on the rise.

The paper also reserves strong words for the VTM station and the journalist involved.

'Thoroughness' praised

"The attitude of the VTM journalist and that of his station's management which is backing him, seems to us not to deserve to be treated leniently," it concluded.

Meanwhile the Flemish daily De Standaard says the whole affair will more than likely win Mr Dedecker votes at the next election, a possibility it brands "shocking".

But the paper also commends the TV station VTM for its thoroughness in preparing the broadcast.

According to De Standaard, Mr Dutroux's interview was heard by court-psychiatrist Karel Ringoet, former Justice Minister Tony Van Parys and several parents involved in the case, prior to the screening.

It also notes that in addition to the interview tapes, the programme makers used letters written by Mr Dutroux to other paedophiles and under-aged girls.

Senator Jean Marie Dedecker
"The Belgium public have a right to know why Dutroux hasn't gone to court"
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