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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Belgian papers hail Dutroux verdict

French and Dutch language papers in Belgium have welcomed the conviction of paedophile Marc Dutroux.

But many question the acquittal of Michel Nihoul, who was accused of being a lynchpin of a paedophile gang and of being involved in the kidnapping of six young girls who fell victim to the child killer.

"Relieved", reads a banner headline across the front page of La Libre Belgique newspaper as it describes the reaction of Laetitia Delhez and Sabine Dardenne, Dutroux's two surviving victims, who are shown smiling in two photographs dominating the front page.

The trial of the century in Belgium was full of suspense right to the end
Le Soir

The paper goes on to say that both young women as well as the families of the girls killed by the convicted Belgian paedophile "expressed their relief and satisfaction to turn the page after a guilty verdict on all charges".

"The jury did not believe the denials of Marc Dutroux", another headline reads.

The paper sombrely reminds its readers that he was found guilty of the "kidnapping, false imprisonment and rape of Julie, Melissa, An, Eefje, Sabine and Laetitia", the young girls involved, "and that he was found responsible for the deaths of the first four".

'Stranger than fiction'

Le Soir newspaper refers to a "judicial imbroglio" in describing the jury's initial inability to decide whether 63-year-old businessman Michel Nihoul was guilty.

The judges ordered the 12 jurors to reconsider their verdict after they split 7-5 on Nihoul's guilt.

The Flemish-language Het Laatste Nieuws says the "believers" in the existence of a gang headed by Nihoul lost out to the "non-believers" because the jury did not see any "concrete" evidence.

The Flemish-language Standaard says that by forcing the jury to come down on one side or the other, the judges had produced a result that was "stranger than fiction".


But Le Soir says Belgium's so called trial of the century was "full of suspense right to the end because the jury had to go back to deliberate before deciding to acquit Nihoul of any role or complicity in the children's kidnappings".

Let's never forget them
La Derniere Heure

For Belgian judicial chroniclers, the outcome was a "judicial first" or at the very least represented "a historic verdict" given the importance of the trial, it adds.

"We will probably never know the precise motivations of the jury members," the Flemish-language Gazet van Antwerpen comments.

Following the same theme, the front-page of La Derniere Heure newspaper runs the headline "Nihoul gets off", adding that the whole country was in a "state of suspense" as it awaited the trial's outcome.

Another headline in the paper says "Let's never forget them" above the photos of the four young girls who were killed.

Headlines from double-page spreads inside the newspaper speak of Nihoul "escaping the supreme sanction" adding that the jury would receive psychological counselling.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The press in Belgium
31 May 04  |  Europe

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