German court drops case against 92-year-old Dutch war criminal

A 92-year-old Dutch war criminal, on trial for murder in Germany, has been released after the judge hearing the case said there is too much uncertainty around the charge.

Siert Bruins, 92, was on trial for killing resistance leader Aldert Klaas Dijkema, who was shot dead near the German border in 1944. The public prosecutor said last December Bruins, who joined the Nazi Waffen SS and now lives in Germany, should be jailed for life for murder.

Bruins, who now has German nationality, was convicted of murdering two Dutch Jews in 1980 and served eight years in jail. He was sentenced to death in absentia by the Dutch courts for the murder of Dijkema in 1949. This was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Efforts to have him brought back to the Netherlands to serve his sentence failed because Germany does not extradite its own citizens.


The judge in the German town of Hagen said on Wednesday that witness statements show Bruins shot Dijkema together with a second man.

However, it can no longer be established if the killing is a question of the murder of an unsuspecting victim. This is because there is no evidence, partly because there are no witnesses left alive, the judge said.

Nos reporter Rienk Kamer said the verdict is particularly painful for relatives of the resistance hero because the German authorities had for years refused to prosecute war criminals for murder.

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