THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court on Tuesday sentenced an Austrian man to three years imprisonment for his involvement in illegally detaining six children held for years and isolated from the outside world by their father at a remote farmhouse in the Netherlands.
The case made headlines around the world when it was discovered in October 2019 that father had been living for years with six of his children in the farmhouse in the village of Ruinerwold in the eastern Netherlands. Their plight only came to light when one of the sons left the building and raised the alarm.
At previous court hearings, prosecutors portrayed the father, identified only as Gerrit Jan van D., 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.
The same court last year dropped all charges against the children’s father, saying he could not stand trial after being incapacitated by a stroke.
The Northern Netherlands District Court convicted the father’s Austrian helper and “disciple,” identified only as Josef B. under Dutch privacy rules, of co-perpetration in the “unlawful deprivation of liberty of the six youngest children of the family” at the farm. He also was convicted of deprivation of liberty of another man held for a time at the farm.
The court said the Austrian, who bought supplies for the family and rented the farm property, “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.”
He was acquitted of the unlawful deprivation of liberty of the family’s eldest three children and of abusing all the children.
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.
The time the Austrian has already spent in custody ahead of his trial will be deducted from his sentence.