Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Judge quits murder trial of Ridouan Taghi over row with defence team

Suspected crime lord was captured after a joint operation with Dubai Police

The trial of suspected crime lord Ridouan Taghi, who was deported from Dubai, has been delayed after the trial judge stepped down.
The trial of suspected crime lord Ridouan Taghi, who was deported from Dubai, has been delayed after the trial judge stepped down.

A judge in a major criminal trial in the Netherlands stepped down over “unacceptable behaviour” by lawyers.

Ridouan Taghi, who was one of Europe’s most wanted men when he was captured in Dubai, is accused of 11 murders and assassinations, international drug crimes and running a gang called the Angels of Death.

Sixteen alleged members of the gang are also due to stand trial.

One accusation that led the chief investigative judge to step down is against lawyer Nico Meijering, who is accused of identifying a family member of a prosecution witness in a letter to the judge.

(L/R): Lawyers Juriaan de Vries, Benedicte Ficq, Nico Meijering, Christian Flokstra, Laura ter Steeg (left to right) arrive at an 'extra secure' court at Schiphol, Badhoevedorp, The Netherlands on August 27, 2020, for a pre-trial hearing in the 'Marengo' case. - The case revolves around a series of murders allegedly carried out on behalf of Ridouan Taghi, who was arrested in Dubai in December 2019, and extradited to The Netherlands. (Photo by Sem VAN DER WAL / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT
(L/R): Lawyers Juriaan de Vries, Benedicte Ficq, Nico Meijering, Christian Flokstra, Laura ter Steeg (left to right) arrive at an 'extra secure' court at Schiphol, Badhoevedorp, The Netherlands on August 27, 2020, for a pre-trial hearing in the 'Marengo' case. - The case revolves around a series of murders allegedly carried out on behalf of Ridouan Taghi, who was arrested in Dubai in December 2019, and extradited to The Netherlands. (Photo by Sem VAN DER WAL / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

Police tracked Mr Meijering to Dubai in a surveillance operation in a bid to apprehend Mr Taghi.

The case has been mired in controversy after the brother of a key prosecution witness known as Nabil B and his lawyer Derk Wiersum were assassinated.

The trial judge, who cannot be named, has been sitting on the case, known as the Marengo trial, hearing evidence in private since last July.

A passer-by looks at the flowers that have been deposited outside the office of the shot lawyer Derk Wiersum. - Derk Wiersum, defence lawyer in a major gangland drugs case was shot dead outside his Amsterdam home on September 18, 2019, raising fresh fears that the Netherlands is turning into a "narco-state". (Photo by Koen van Weel / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT
A passer-by looks at the flowers that have been deposited outside the office of the shot lawyer Derk Wiersum. - Derk Wiersum, defence lawyer in a major gangland drugs case was shot dead outside his Amsterdam home on September 18, 2019, raising fresh fears that the Netherlands is turning into a "narco-state". (Photo by Koen van Weel / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

Her withdrawal means all the trial’s evidence hearings in October and November have been cancelled, causing lengthy delays while a new trial judge is appointed.

"Certain statements by some counsel go beyond all standards of decency, in my opinion," she wrote in her withdrawal letter, according to newspaper Het Parool.

"Where one might say it is just words, I find such treatment unacceptable in business dealings between judges, lawyers and prosecutors.

“In addition, I have been accused in various terms of systematically intimidating the defence, systematically favouring the prosecution and ignoring the rights of defence.

"It has also been said that with me staying there would be a constant fear of negative decisions for the defence and bias towards the defence."

Defence lawyers asked for her to step down earlier this year over claims of bias.

Mr Meijering and his colleague Christian Flokstra, said the judge’s withdrawal from the case was unjustified.

“We deeply regret that the examining magistrate has said goodbye to the Marengo trial with this letter full of personal and unfounded grievances towards lawyers,” they said.

“This is unnecessary and does not suit an examining magistrate.”

The trial faced continued delays owing to Wiersum’s murder as Nabil B sought to find new legal representation.

Mr Taghi is in a high-security prison in Amsterdam following his deportation from Dubai last December.

An international arrest warrant was issued for him in 2018 and officials issued a €100,000 ($118,200) reward for his capture.

It was only when a cross-border operation was launched with Dubai Police last year that a breakthrough became possible after officials received a tip-off he was in the Middle East.

It led to a 10-day stake out at the luxury villa hideout of the Moroccan-Dutch suspected crime lord.

In a separate case in Morocco, Mr Taghi is also accused of the murder of a judge’s son.

Updated: October 22, 2020 04:39 PM

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