Moluccan train hijackers were ‘not to survive’, former officers tell Volkskrant

The hijacked train. Photo: National archives
The hijacked train. Photo: National archives

Three new witnesses have come forward in a court case against the Dutch defence ministry concerning the shooting of six Moluccan train hijackers in 1977, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.

Relatives of the hijackers claim they were executed on the orders of the ministry, a claim it denies but which has been supported by an anonymous ex-marine involved in the liberation of the train.

The new witnesses, all former officers, also claim that they were told the hijackers were not to survive the military intervention.

The brief to execute the hijackers allegedly came from then justice minister Dries van Agt who earlier said he ‘had no memory’ of giving the order. But in a reaction to the Volkskrant following the new claims he labelled the allegation ‘impossible’, ‘unthinkable’ and ‘out of the question’.

According to lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who represents the relatives of two of the hijackers, the case had focused too much on statements made by soldiers who had been on the train at the time.

‘Those few seconds are not going to clarify what happened. The truth is at a higher level’, the paper quotes her as saying. Zegveld now wants to call four commanding officers to the witness stand as well as former general Henk van Breemen and Dries van Agt.

The ministry of justice has yet to react to the new claims, the paper writes. The case will continue on May 29.


The seventies saw a number of violent incidents in the Netherlands by radicalised young Moluccans. At the same time as the train hostage-taking in Groningen, another group took a number of school children and their teachers hostage in a school in Bovensmilde.

In this case the hostage takers surrendered and no one was hurt.

The frustration of many in the Moluccan community goes back to the way the post-war government treated the soldiers who had fought for the Dutch in its former colony of Indonesia and who, when Indonesia proclaimed its independence, looked to the Dutch state to help them in their efforts to establish their own independent Moluccan state.

In 1951 some 12,500 Moluccan soldiers and their families were shipped to the Netherlands and housed in barracks, as a temporary measure. They were then discharged from the army, not allowed to work and given pocket money.

The Dutch government, however, never made any effort to help the Moluccans establish their Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS) which the Indonesian government refuses to recognise it to this day.

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