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Dutch trial opens for 9 suspects charged over deadly brawl in Spain

A 1959 treaty letting European countries request legal assistance from one another allows an entire trial to be moved abroad.

LELYSTAD, Netherland (CN) — The trial of a group of Dutch youths charged with assault and manslaughter over a brawl in Spain began Tuesday before a crowded courtroom in the central Dutch city of Lelystad. 

The defendants, all between the ages of 18 and 20, were on vacation on the Spanish island of Mallorca last year when a fight over a bar stool spilled onto the street and left 27-year-old Carlo Heuvelman, also from the Netherlands, dead. 

Three men - identified only as Sanil B., Mees T. and Hein B. for privacy reasons, per Dutch law - are charged with manslaughter and the remaining six suspects are charged with assault and disorderly conduct for brawling in the late night and early morning hours of July 13-14.

All of the defendants admit to participating in the altercation but deny delivering the fatal blow to their fellow countryman. 

Each of the nine men is represented by separate lawyers, as their interests may be at odds with one another. The Lelystad courtroom was too small for each of them to sit behind a microphone to answer questions Tuesday. "That is not possible," said Presiding Judge Remco Hoekstra.

The girlfriend and family of Heuvelman watched the proceedings from an adjoining room and the court opened another room for the public. 

The case has generated wide media attention in the Netherlands. Mallorca is a popular vacation destination for Dutch young people and cellphone videos of the violence soon spread on social media. 

The proceedings before the Central Netherlands District Court opened with the court remanding one of the defendants, 19-year-old Mees T., to jail for violating the terms of his pretrial release by doing drugs and traveling abroad. 

Prosecutors say Heuvelman's DNA was found on Sanil B.'s shoe and the DNA of another seriously injured victim, whose name has not been released, was found on the shoes of both Sanil B. and Hein B. Defense lawyers dispute that assertion.

Under the 1959 European Mutual Assistance Convention, European countries can request legal help from one another including relocating entire cases abroad. Soon after the incident in July 2021, a Spanish judge asked the Central Netherlands District Prosecutor's Office to take over the case. Most of the suspects are from the nearby Dutch town of Hilversum, a wealthy town nicknamed “villa village.” The victim is from Waddinxveen, about an hour away. 

While the group admits to involvement in the violent encounter, and video footage shows several of the defendants shoving and punching victims, it is unclear who delivered the fatal blow to Heuvelman. A Spanish medical examiner found that he was likely killed by a deliberate injury, but it was possible Heuvelman sustained his fatal head injury while falling during the attack.

The difficulty in ascertaining precisely what happened that summer evening led to frustrations in the courtroom Tuesday. After several of the suspects said they couldn’t remember certain events, the presiding judge told the group to “man up” and be honest about what happened. 

Prosecutors showed a 3D rendering of the street where Heuvelman died and the other victims were attacked interplayed with videos of the assault in an effort to clarify what happened. At one point, Heuvelman could be seen laying unmoving on the ground while two women attempted to help him. A voice can be heard shouting “What the fuck?” in Dutch. 

Over the coming days, the court will hear from each defendant individually in an effort to get to the bottom of what happened. Next week, Heuvelman’s relatives and his girlfriend will have an opportunity to address the court and explain how his death has impacted them. 

A verdict is expected on Nov. 18.

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