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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 13:50 GMT
Dutroux interview sparks political row
Dutroux at earlier court hearing
Dutroux is still awaiting trial for abduction and murder
A politician who helped a journalist record a clandestine interview with Belgium's notorious paedophile murder suspect, Marc Dutroux, has come under pressure to resign.

Jean-Marie Dedecker, a senator for the Flemish Liberal Party (VLD), the senior partner in the country's coalition government, smuggled a journalist from Flemish-language station VTM into Mr Dutroux's cell, leading prison authorities to believe he was his chauffeur.

In the illicit interview, broadcast on Belgian television on Monday, Mr Dutroux said he had been part of a wider paedophile network but said the police did not want to pursue it.

He also admitted locking up the four girls he is accused of abducting and murdering, but denied responsibility for their deaths.


I will not accept any penalty relating to this affair

Jean-Marie Dedecker
VLD Senator

Belgian opposition politicians and the media have claimed that Mr Dedecker, who led prison authorities to believe the journalist was his chauffeur, mocked the country's justice system by allowing the encounter to take place.

The Christian Social Party, a francophone party in the coalition, has demanded the resignation of Mr Dedecker and the country's Justice Minister, Marc Verwilghen, who had given the senator permission to visit the suspect in prison.

Mr Dedecker was forced to apologise on Monday for his actions after an official reprimand by the VLD.

But the French speaking press said the reprimand was insufficient, and attacked the party for not coming down harder on the senator.

The BBC's Shirin Wheeler in Brussels says the interview is nonetheless bound to have fuelled public speculation that the delay in bringing Mr Dutroux to trial is because of a cover-up by members of the Belgian establishment allegedly linked to paedophile activities.

Allegations

Dutroux was arrested in 1996 in a case which rocked the nation. Two of the children who he abducted starved to death in makeshift dungeons under his house.

Marc Dutroux, pictured during a trial for car theft on 17 January 2002
Dutroux is already a convicted paedophile
But he insisted in the course of the interview that he was part of a wider network.

"There is a well-grounded [paedophile] ring," he told VLD. "I maintained regular contact with people in this ring. However, the law does not want to investigate this lead."

He freely admitted the abduction of teenagers An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, and eight-year-olds Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, although it was not clear whether he was aware that he was speaking to a journalist.

"I kept Julie and Melissa captive at my place, so I'm not innocent. I kept An and Eefje captive at my place, so I'm not innocent. I'm absolutely guilty," Dutroux said.

But he has always maintained that he did not murder the girls. He accuses his second wife, Michelle Martin, of failing to feed Julie and Melissa.

Demonstration in Brussels
Thousands mourned murdered girls
Dutroux's trial is due to start next year. It has been delayed several times as a result of the extensive investigation into the girls' deaths.

This has included forensic tests on some 6,000 hair samples taken from Dutroux's basement to try and establish whether the girls had any other visitors.

Dutroux has already served time for a paedophile conviction. He was set free in 1992 after serving three years of a 13-year sentence for raping five girls.

The parents of two of the young victims - An Marchal and Melissa Russo - say they are deeply unhappy Dutroux has been interviewed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Shirine Wheeler
"Dutroux has always pleaded not guilty to the charges"
Belgian TV reporter, Tomas van-Hemeledonck
"He is obsessed about his dossiers"
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