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Austrian man jailed for helping to detain six Dutch children for years

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Six children were found living in secluded conditions in Ruinerwold in 2019.
Six children were found living in secluded conditions in Ruinerwold in 2019.   -   Copyright  RTL Netherlands via AP

An Austrian man has been jailed for helping to illegally detain six children at a remote farmhouse in the Netherlands.

The minors were isolated from the world for years by their father in the northeastern Dutch village of Ruinerwold.

The case generated international headlines in October 2019 when one of the detained sons left the building and raised the alarm. Three older siblings had earlier left the family’s isolated life, while their mother died in 2004.

On Tuesday, a Northern Netherlands District Court sentenced an Austrian man to three years imprisonment for his role in the scandal.

The same court last year had dropped all charges against the children’s father, saying he could not stand trial after being incapacitated by a stroke.

According to prosecutors, the father - identified as identified only as Gerrit Jan van D. - was a deeply religious man who saw his family as “chosen by God”.

It was alleged that he had done everything in his power - including physical beatings - to keep six of his children from succumbing to supposed "malign outside influences".

The Austrian suspect - identified only as Josef B. - was accused of being the father's helper and "disciple".

He was found guilty of conspiring in the “unlawful deprivation of liberty of the six youngest children of the family” at the farmhouse.

He also was convicted of deprivation of liberty of another "disciple", who was held at the farm for several weeks in 2009 and an "argument".

The court heard that Josef B. was "a follower and supporter of the children's father's philosophy of life," had bought supplies for the family and rented the farm property.

Prosecutors said that he “played an essential role in the events and without his contribution it would not have been possible for the father to keep his children isolated from society for so long.”

The 61-year-old was acquitted of the unlawful deprivation of liberty of the family’s eldest three children and of abusing all the children.

The time the Austrian has already spent in custody ahead of his trial will be deducted from his sentence.