THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The families of two hijackers killed when Dutch forces stormed a train seized by Moluccan extremists in 1977 are suing the government, claiming the hijackers were "executed" by marines when they could have been arrested, according to details of the case released Monday.
The civil case harks back to the hijacking nearly 40 years ago in the northeastern Netherlands by members of the Moluccan community angry at what they saw as their betrayal by the Dutch government after former colony Indonesia was granted independence.
The 20-day ordeal for dozens of passengers ended when marines stormed the train, killing six hijackers. Two hostages also died in the operation that began early on June 11, 1977, when air force jets flew low over the train. Marines then opened fire before storming the carriages.
Citing autopsy reports, lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld claims that two hostage-takers, Max Papilaja and Hansina Uktolseja, were wounded during the storming and could have been arrested but instead were fatally shot.
"The (Dutch) state is liable for the damages as a result of these executions," Zegveld said in her written pleading.
The Dutch Justice Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The hijackers were members of an extremist wing of the South Moluccan community that wanted the Netherlands to pressure Indonesia into granting independence to their ancestral islands in what was formerly the Dutch East Indies.
They demanded the release of 21 extremists who had been jailed in the Netherlands in connection with a series of commando actions designed to pressure the Dutch government into supporting independence.
The civil suit states that the hijackers' families "in no way want to deny that their son and sister took part in a serious crime," but adds that "justice also applies to those involved in the most serious crimes."