The former wife and accomplice of the convicted child killer Marc Dutroux was released from prison on Tuesday afternoon
after last-ditch appeals to keep her behind bars failed.
the release, which was expected, infuriated families of victims of crimes that shocked the world 20 years ago for their brutality and the failures of the country’s police and judicial systems to bring the couple to justice sooner.
In recent weeks, Belgians have relived some of that trauma amid an unfolding debate about whether the decision to release Michelle Martin, 52, is yet another sign that the country’s justice system needs reform, and whether such a person should even be allowed her chance at rehabilitation.
The country’s highest appeals court, the Cour de Cassation, ruled on Tuesday that no procedural errors had been made by a lower court to allow Ms. Martin to live on conditional release in a convent after serving barely half of her 30-year sentence for her part in the mid-1990s kidnappings, rapes and killings by Marc Dutroux, who then was her husband.
Ms. Martin’s lawyer, Thierry Moreau, has described the convent as a place where she would seek to redeem herself while on parole.
But whether Ms. Martin would immediately go to the convent — an attractive red-brick complex with ivy-covered walls south of Brussels — was unclear on Tuesday evening. As one of the most despised people in the country, her safety could be at risk.
Belgian television reports on Tuesday showed the convent sprayed with green fluorescent paint reading “No, No M.M.,” Ms. Martin’s initials.
Demonstrations flared this month in Brussels calling for Ms. Martin to be kept incarcerated and for tougher rules on freeing convicted criminals, and there could be more protests this weekend opposing her arrival at the convent.