In mid-90′s Belgium, six young girls were raped and tortured by a wealthy antisocial man named Marc Dutroux. He kept them in the basement of one of his seven homes; his wife, Michelle Martin was aware of her husband’s activities. Two of the victims, 17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks, were drugged and buried alive. Two more, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo, both 8, were starved to death. Dutroux, before going to jail for car theft, gave Martin instructions to feed them, which she disregarded. Another two, Sabine Dardenne, then 12, and Laetitia Delhez, then 14, survived. Both girls testified against Dutroux at his 2004 trial, helping to put him away for life. Another accomplice, Michel Lelièvre, was sentenced to 25 years, and the wife, Martin, to 30.
Now, a Belgian court has ruled that Martin, 52, could be let out of prison to live in a convent in the village of Malonne. Among the thousands of Belgians protesting this decision is Delhez, now 30, as well as Jean-Denis Lejeune and Jean Lambrecks, the fathers of two of the victims. “Don’t forget she had multiple opportunities to free them. She didn’t do it. Her role has been minimalized,” Lejeune told reporters. “Michelle Martin is as guilty as Dutroux, and I think she should serve her entire sentence,” said Lambrecks. According to Belgian law, a prisoner can be paroled after serving a third of his or her sentence; Martin has served 16 of her 30 years. Yesterday, over 2,000 people marched in protest of the court’s decision, many fearing for the safety of their young children. Once at the convent, Martin will be free to come and go as she pleases.
Martin’s attorney, Thierry Moreau, has said that his client is a “changed woman” who has become very religious and will use life at the convent as a chance to serve others. The court has said that the decision to parole Martin cannot be appealed, but that it can be challenged in civil court.