THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Prosecutors asked a Dutch court Thursday to drop the case against a 68-year-old father who is accused of isolating and abusing his own children, who were kept secluded from the outside world for years in a remote farmhouse.
The case drew global attention in 2019 when police discovered the father with six of his children in a hidden room in the farmhouse in the eastern Netherlands after one son raised the alarm.
At a preliminary hearing in January last year, prosecutors portrayed the father as a deeply religious man who saw his family as “chosen by God” and did everything in his power — including physical beatings and other punishments — to keep them from succumbing to what he considered malign outside influences.
Prosecutors now say the man, identified only as Gerrit Jan van D. under Dutch privacy rules, has been largely incapacitated by a 2016 stroke. Continuing the case would violate his right to a fair trial as he is unable to defend himself, prosecutors said.
While asking judges to halt the case, prosecutors said their efforts and those of police had served a useful purpose in liberating the family.
“We got the younger children out of what was then an unsafe, bizarre situation. And over the course of the investigation, we gave them something they didn’t have before: an actual existence in our society through their registration in the personal register, but more importantly: freedom of choice.”
The six children who were kept on the farm are now all young adults. Three older siblings had earlier left the family’s isolated life. Their mother died in 2004.
Prosecutors acknowledged their decision would be hard for the children who escaped the isolation and told investigators “about terrible things they endured.”
Prosecutors said while the case against the father is over, all the children are now free to choose their own futures, even if that means returning to isolation with their ailing father.
“In the past 18 months, the children have got to know our society, have been able to participate in it and have received spiritual and medical care,” they said. “If, now that they have been able to taste the alternative, they nevertheless choose to want to live in seclusion with their father again, to exercise their faith … that is their choice.”