Wednesday 21 April 2021

State in court for alleged Moluccan hijack killings

The hijacked train. Photo: National archives

The hijacked train. Photo: National archives

Relatives of two of the six Moluccans who hijacked a train in Groningen in 1977 were in court on Friday in an effort to force a court case about their deaths. They claim the hijackers were executed when they were already severely wounded and not capable of offensive action.

After a 19-day stand-off between the government and the hijackers, the government ordered an assault on the train which claimed the lives of two passengers and the six hijackers.

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who is representing the claimants, is hopeful the court will throw out the state’s claim that the case is too old. According to Zegveld, new facts have emerged in the last few years which justify a trial, broadcaster NOS reports.

Autopsy

Autopsy reports, which were only made public in 2013, show that the shots that killed two of the hijackers were fired from a short range. It had previously been assumed they had been killed by some of the thousands of bullets fired at the train during the assault, the NRC writes.

Zegveld also has access to a statement from the lawyer of a marine involved in the assault who claims that ‘a government representative’ said the hijackers had to be killed even if they surrendered. The identity of the government official is unknown, the paper writes.

The state had always claimed that the hijackers were not killed on purpose but in April last year justice minister Ard van der Steur acknowledged that the then justice minister Dries van Agt had misinformed parliament when he said no shots had been fired at disarmed hostage takers.

Radicalised

The seventies saw a number of violent actions by radicalised young Moluccans. At the same time as the hostage taking at De Punt 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. Two years earlier another train was hijacked, ending in the death of three hostages.

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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