Jakarta. Arguing that government troops used "an excessive amount" of deadly force to end a train hijacking by armed Dutch-Moluccan activists in the Netherlands in 1977, relatives and a survivor are holding the Dutch state liable for damages, their lawyers announced on Wednesday.
The state also "covered up essential information concerning the events that took place in the train, and false information was provided [to suvivors, relatives of victims and the Dutch parliament] about the scope of force that was deployed," Amsterdam-based law firm Prakken d'Oliveira said in a press release.
Republic of South Maluku
Nine young Moluccan activists in the morning of May 23, 1977, hijacked a train near the village De Punt, in northern Drenthe province. Forty people were released and the remaining 45 passengers and the train's driver and conductor were taken hostage.
The hijackers demanded the Dutch government support the establishment of a Republic of South Maluku (RMS) on Indonesian territory.
The activists were descendents of people brought to the Netherlands after the Indonesian war of independence, in 1950. The Moluccan men had served in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL), which was disbanded after the war, and were promised that their stay in the Netherlands would only be temporary and that they would be allowed to return to Maluku. But that never happened.
The 1966 execution -- after years of imprisonment -- of the president of the self-proclaimed RMS, Chris Soumokil, led to radicalization of members of the Moluccan community in the Netherlands. Many had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of official Dutch support for their cause, and some among the younger generation decided that peaceful activism was no longer an option.
In 1975, a first train was hijacked at Wijster, also in the north of the country, in conjunction with a hostage-taking at the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam. The consulate raid ended with the Moluccans surrendering, just like the train hijacking, but the latter not before three hostages were executed and their bodies thrown out of the train.
On June 11, 1977, a special unit of the Netherlands Marine Corps stormed the train at De Punt, during which six hostage takers and two hostages were killed.
Justice Minister Dries van Agt at the time said that "controlled force" was used, but official documents from the late 1970s, which have only recently become available, contradict that remark.
Dutch media recently also reported, based on a statement of a former police officer who had been stationed close to De Punt at the time of the hijacking, that Van Agt had basically ordered the execution of at least two of the hijackers. But Van Agt, who served as prime minister of the Netherlands from December 1977 until November 1982, has denied that he ordered the use of excessive force.
According to the lawyers for the six claimants, including now-64-year-old surviving hijacker Junus Ririmasse, hollow point bullets were used during the raid, and the six hijackers who were killed suffered a combined number of 144 gunshot wounds.
The other claimants are relatives of five hijackers -- including a woman -- who were killed, some apparently executed while no longer able to resist: Hans Papilaja, Hansina Uktolseja, Ronnie Lumalessil, Dominggus Rumamory and Matheus Tuny.
Claimant Ririmasse was hit by ten bullets and spent three months in hospital recovering.
After the end of hijacking, according to a letter sent to Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten by lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld and Brechtje Vossenberg on Wednesday, relatives were not allowed to see the remains of the killed hijackers, which were handed over in sealed coffins.
The lawyers also accuse the Dutch state of falsifying information, as officials told the widow of one of the killed hostages -- Rien van Baarsel -- that her husband had died after being shot once by a hijacker, while in fact the man was hit by six bullets, all fired by the Marines.