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Marc Dutroux: Child Killer Wants Early Release
Serial paedophile child killer Marc Dutroux, who is one of Belgium's most notorious criminals, has asked a court to release him early from prison.
Dutroux, now aged 56, is serving a life term for kidnapping, torturing and abusing six young girls in 1995 and 1996, and murdering four of them, including two eight-year-olds.
Two other girls, aged 12 and 14, were rescued from the cellar of a property belonging to the former electrician near the southern Belgian town of Charleroi.
The killer - dubbed the "monster of Charleroi" by the press - has been in jail for 16 years and wants to be released and then be monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet.
Under Belgian law, criminals can be freed after serving a third of their sentences, or after 15 years in the case of those who have received life, a perpetual sentence in Belgium.
Dutroux's former wife, Michelle Martin - who let two girls starve to death in the cellar while her husband was in jail for theft - was approved for early release in July.
She now lives in a convent.
Dutroux was taken from a high-security prison to the central Brussels courthouse as a helicopter hovered overhead and 125 officers stood guard over the building.
He was then slipped into the court unseen through a back door.
A handful of protesters outside demanded the killer be hanged, saying "the rope for paedophiles".
Dutroux's request to be released has horrified Belgians and revived demands for a re-write of the country's legislation on parole.
The court is not expected to rule on Dutroux's request for freedom until February 18, and prison officials and prosecutors have recommended he should not be let out.
At the end of the hearing, his lawyer Pierre Deutsch said he would not make any statement until the court decision later this month.
Mr Deutsch had said his client would ask for early release on the grounds he could find "a job, or at least an income, accommodation, and show why the risk of recidivism should as far as possible be discounted".
Public shock in 1996 about the case turned to fury when it emerged police had missed a string of clues that could have led to Dutroux being apprehended earlier.
Officers had visited one of his houses while two victims, both eight years old, were being held there without finding them. The pair later starved to death in a makeshift dungeon.
There was also anger that he had been released from prison in 1992 after serving just three years of a 13-year sentence for the abduction and rape of five girls.