Fury over transfer of killer Dutroux's ex-wife to convent

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Media captionDemonstrators have called for Michelle Martin to serve her full term in jail

Hundreds of people in southern Belgium are protesting against plans to transfer the jailed ex-wife of child killer Marc Dutroux to a convent.

The "conditional release" ruling for Michelle Martin came on Tuesday, after a convent near Namur in southern Belgium agreed to take her in.

Protesters have gathered in the village of Malonne holding white balloons and photos of Dutroux's victims.

Last year France refused to let Martin move to a convent in northern France.

She has spent 16 years in prison, out of a 30-year jail term. She was found complicit in two of Dutroux's four murders of young girls.

She was also convicted of helping Dutroux hold his victims prisoner.

Martin will go to the Clarisses convent in Malonne and has been ordered to "keep her distance" from relatives of the victims.

Some protesters shouted "Shame, shame! Jail, jail! Shame on justice!" as they arrived at the convent, the AFP news agency reported.

"This release, it hurts. You have to think of the parents and the ordeal the girls suffered," Albert Ponassi, who has connections to one of the victim's families, was quoted as saying.

Dutroux was arrested in 1996 and convicted in 2004 of the kidnap and rape of six girls, teenage or younger. He also killed two of the girls and caused the deaths of two others.

Martin was arrested along with Dutroux and found guilty of helping him in the abductions, and of complicity in the deaths of two of the girls - eight-year-olds Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo.

Image caption Dutroux was first detained for the child abductions in 1996 but not convicted until 2004

They were found buried after they had been starved to death in Dutroux's basement dungeon.

The parents and other family members of some victims expressed their concern at Martin's transfer to the convent.

Some are angry at not having been consulted by authorities about the decision.

Psychiatrists have also warned officials that Martin could still present a danger to society, Belgian media reported.

Martin must live under strict conditions while resident at the convent, including not speaking to the media about her crimes.

She would only be allowed out under strict supervision of nuns and probation workers, officials said.

But in 10 years' time she will be eligible for full release into the community, the court in Mons ruled.

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