“Justice seeks out the frayed edges of the rule of law by following lawyers

Advocates are outraged that last year the Public Prosecution Service had counselors Nico Meijering and Leon van Kleef followed at Schiphol Airport and then in Dubai. This happened after a tip that they would meet the then still fugitive criminal Ridouan Taghi. The lawyers turned out to have an appointment with one of their own clients, but the question is how far justice can go in the investigation.

“The decisive factor was that Meijering was not Taghi’s lawyer”, the Public Prosecution Service responded to the news that the AD brought out. “This also applied to his office mate Van Kleef, who appeared to accompany him on the flight to Dubai on 19 June According to the prosecution, therefore, the confidential relationship between lawyer and client would not be violated. Moreover, Taghi posed a serious threat and he was the most wanted suspect, according to the OM.

Meijering assists suspect Saïd R. in the so-called Marengo trial, who is seen as the second man behind Ridouan Taghi. He fears for the safety of lawyers. “A possible arrest could easily be misinterpreted,” he says. Criminals could easily point the accusing finger at counsel. The Dutch Bar Association and the Association of Defence Counsel are also concerned.

Harmful to the rule of law

“If this becomes a policy line, it will be extremely damaging to the communication between lawyers and clients”, reacts professor of legal psychology Peter van Koppen in the CCeit Radio 1 News. “They must be able to talk freely with each other. If you’re going to follow lawyers to find their clients, that’s the fence of the dam.”

He fears the consequences if this kind of detection methods become the normal course of events. “The consequence will be that lawyers will be kept under constant surveillance. Certainly the kind of lawyer like Meijering or Van Kleef, who defends people from the drug trade.”

According to Van Koppen, the Marengo case is not an isolated case. “What you see happening is that the handling of the courtroom, and the actions of the police and the judiciary in this kind of case, seek out the frayed edges of the rule of law. It’s coming under increasing pressure because people say: it’s so important to find Taghi that we do things we know they don’t belong. That’s because of the unsuccessful way we fight drug crime. That’s the fundamental problem.”

Discover how Ridouan Taghi seems to be the linchpin in a network of almost a hundred names:

The tension between the litigants in the Marengo case, in which seventeen defendants are on trial for a series of liquidations and attempts to do so, is not new. For example, there was the accusation by the Public Prosecution Service that five lawyers passed on suspects’ files to Taghi’s organisation in 2015. The messages were added to the file, to the indignation of the lawyers, who say that the allegations have not been checked. Justice did not knock on the door of the Bar Association, even though that is the normal course of events.

Territorial lawyer

He doesn’t believe that the latest developments in the case will have a major impact on the trial. “However, the mistrust between the parties involved is becoming more and more important. That’s not conducive to good criminal justice. We should be seriously concerned about that.”

But the prosecution may point out that all suspects are stuck in the Marengo trial. “That is the ultimate argument: all means are permitted, as long as you achieve what you want to achieve,” says Van Koppen. “But that’s not how the rule of law works. If they think that, they have to go back to the first lesson: what is the Dutch constitutional state?”