People trafficker escapes, witnesses fear for life

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Dutch police are still frantically trying to trace an escaped people trafficker, while MPs are asking the Justice Minister how a man known to be extremly violent was allowed to escape.

Saban B. (surname withheld) was serving a 7.5 year prison sentence for people trafficking. Despite protestations by the prosecutor's office, a court in Arnhem decided it was safe to allowed Saban to leave prison for a couple of days to enable him to be with his wife and their new-born baby. The 38-year-old detainee disappeared without trace, and police are saying he may have gone abroad.

Saban married in prison with a former prostitute exploited by him. Police sources suggested to the Telegraaf daily that he married her with a view to getting out of prison.

Beatings and operations
Saban and his brother Hassan were found guilty last year of forcing over 100 women into prostitution. The women were branded with tattoos so everyone who laid eyes on them could see that they were "property of" the brothers. The men also hit the women with baseball bats and forced them to undergo breast enlargement operations.

Sylvia, one of Saban's victims, told RNW, "as soon as we received a customer, Saban or his brother would come inside to take the money, so that I could keep nothing for myself. If we didn't co-operate, they would use violence."

The Dutch People Trafficking Co-ordination Centre is warning victims of Saban that their lives are in danger now that he is on the loose. "We are advising people who testified against him to go into hiding," a spokeswoman for the centre told public TV on Wednesday.

A lawyer speaking for nine women who testified, "The witnesses are terribly upset, they cannot believe that a dangerous convict serving his term is allowed out in our legal system. Yet he is out of jail now. In the course of the trial he threatened the witnesses, saying he would know where to find them."

Political fallout
Conservative VVD MP Fred Teeven, a former prosecutor, told RNW,

"It's a disgrace that the victims of this man are having to face this. It's also a disgrace that a prisoner who wants to see his baby is not shown the child in prison, but that you're allowed to get out, just having to report to police station once a day. Anyone can see that a man like that will then run away."

Mr Teeven and his Labour colleague Ton Heerts are demanding an explanation from Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin. Even Mr Ballin's fellow Christian Democrat Van Haersma Buma says,

"It's downright naive for the judicial authorities to believe that this is admissible. Releasing this man is like saying, bye bye, hope to see you again."

In an initial reaction, Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin said he was shocked that the court had let the convict out on leave.