|275,000 in Belgium Protest Handling of Child Sex Scandal - Oct 19, 1996|
Below is a New York Times piece from 1996 which sheds a little more light on Marc Dutroux and the VIP pedophile/murder network he fronted; as well as the maneuvers by the Belgian government to stop the inquiry into it before high government names could be revealed.
BRUSSELS, Oct. 20, 1996 — Tens of thousands of Belgians gathered in the heart of Brussels today, waving white balloons and white flowers in a popular outpouring of anger and frustration over a widening child sex scandal.
The ''White March,'' as it was called by organizers, was one of the largest in the country's recent history, drawing some 275,000 Belgians and supporters from neighboring countries, the police said.
It capped a week of spontaneous protests that erupted after Belgium's highest court removed a magistrate widely seen as a hero in the scandal, Jean-Marc Connerotte, from investigations into a pedophile and child pornography ring. So far, 13 people have been charged in the case, which involves the kidnapping, sexual abuse and killing of several children, with at least seven young girls still missing.
The ruling prompted the public, already outraged by reports of the crimes and the slowness of investigators to respond, to take to the streets. The dismissal also followed press reports that Mr. Connerotte was on the verge of disclosing the names of senior government officials who had been recognized on confiscated videotapes, and during allegations of a high-level cover-up.
The march had been planned before Mr. Connerotte's dismissal last week, and gained momentum in the days following, which were marked by spontaneous protests around the country aimed increasingly at the nation's entire political and judicial class.
People from all ages and parts of the country gathered in the capital today, some wearing the white clothes and caps urged by organizers as a demonstration of hope.
Some 1,400 police officers were assigned to control the crowd, though the protesters marched peacefully, heeding calls for calm from King Albert, Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene and the parents of the missing children.
''I am here to show solidarity with the parents,'' said one marcher, Gerda Zammattio, the mother of a three-year-old daughter, Naomi. ''What has happened in the last few weeks moved me greatly. The system must become more humane.''
At the march, Flemish protesters wore stickers across their foreheads saying, ''Stop the cover-up.''
Employees at the national airline, Sabena, stopped work for five minutes this morning, carrying white armbands in support of the march, and said they would do so again in the afternoon.
He was released 10 years early in 1992 from a 13-year sentence for multiple child rape. Scores of videos with child pornography were seized along with him.
Four young girls died at the hands of the gang, two after being locked in a dungeon-like cell and starved to death. Two others girls were rescued -- at the initiative of the dismissed magistrate, Mr. Connerotte, a breakthrough in the case that helped make him a national hero.
More on this to follow...