Seven in court over Dutch linesman killing
THE HAGUE (AFP) –
Six teenagers and one of their fathers appeared before a Dutch court on Monday to face charges over the killing of a football linesman last year.
At a pre-trial hearing, with limited access for the media at the Lelystad courthouse, northeast of Amsterdam, the teenagers and a 51-year-old man whose 16-year-old son was with him in the dock, were all charged with the death of Richard Nieuwenhuizen on December 3.
Nieuwenhuizen, 41, died a day after being allegedly kicked several times in the head during an attack by enraged young opposition footballers shortly after the final whistle of an amateur game.
Seven youths and the man, who was not identified, were subsequently arrested in connection with the attack.
The youths and the man are all charged with homicide, public violence and brutality. Six youths, aged between 16 and 17, as well as the man remained in custody while a seventh teenager, aged 15, is free but faces similar charges.
All eight are connected to, or are members of, the Nieuw Sloten football club, which played against Nieuwenhuizen’s Buitenboys Club in Almere, just west of Amsterdam, when the attack occurred.
Nieuwenhuizen officiated as a linesman in the under-17 match in which his own son also played and was set upon shortly after the final whistle by members of the Nieuw Sloten club. He was allegedly kicked several times in the head but got up and went home.
He became ill a few hours later and died the following day in hospital with his family at his side.
The linesman’s death horrified the Netherlands where 1.2 million people out of a population of 16.5 million are members of the national football federation KNVB.
It prompted deep soul-searching in a country with an often fanatical football culture.
A few days after the attack, thousands of people turned out for a silent march in Almere to pay final tributes to Nieuwenhuizen, with the KNVB calling off all amateur matches that weekend.
Around the country signs were put up including at the Buitenboys Club which read in Dutch: “Zonder respect geen voetball” – “Without respect, no football”.
The accused are to go on trial at the end of May, but it is not yet known whether the trial will be open to the public as the accused are minors.
Monday’s hearing was held behind closed doors with a selected number of journalists allowed to follow via CCTV link in an adjoining court room.
One of the accused’s lawyers, Sidney Smeets told AFP outside the courthouse his client “finds it incredible that he has to appear before the court as a suspect in the linesman’s death”.
“Nobody would have foreseen that this incident would get out of hand as it did,” he said.
In a surprise twist last week, Dutch media reported that three members of the Nieuw Sloten team were not even supposed to have been playing on the day Nieuwenhuizen was attacked.
Two of the boys did not have “players’ passes”, while a third was not a Nieuw Sloten member, Dutch media reported, citing court documents.