Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Dutch 'internet baby' case opens

Belgium/Netherlands map

A Dutch court is hearing the case of a Dutch couple's alleged illegal adoption of a baby over the internet from a couple in Belgium.

The court in Zwolle is considering who should have custody of the baby, reportedly sold for thousands of euros.

The case was brought by the Dutch Child Protection Council, which says the Dutch couple violated adoption rules.

It says the baby should be placed in the care of a "neutral foster family" - with no ties to either of the couples.

Kees Dijkman, a spokesman for the council, told BBC News that the Dutch couple had "stolen a child's identity" by breaking the international rules of adoption. He said that could be very damaging to the baby in the future.

Couple 'feeling bad'

The case of the baby - known only as "Baby J" - was brought to light by the Dutch TV programme Netwerk in a recent broadcast.

It said the baby had been born in Belgium's northern city of Ghent in the summer.

The Belgian couple - who already had a child - then decided to sell the baby because they could not afford to raise two children, Netwerk said.

It then informed the Dutch justice ministry about its investigation, and the case was brought to the Zwolle court by the Dutch Child Protection Council.

A lawyer for the Belgian couple this week told Belgium's VTM television that they felt bad about their decision and now wanted their baby back.

Prosecutors in Ghent have also opened an inquiry into an alleged false declaration of identity, following reports that the Dutch couple had registered the baby with the Belgian authorities.

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