Seven teens and a father are on trial in the Netherlands over the death of a football linesman last year. The case has raised concern over violence in the sport in the country and around the world.
The suspects were charged with the manslaughter of volunteer football linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen Wednesday in Leystad, Netherlands. The hearing is mostly closed to the media due to the young age of most of the defendants.
The incident took place in the northern Dutch city of Almere following a 2-2 draw between Buitenboys and Nieuw Sloten. Several Nieuw Sloten players confronted Nieuwenhuizen, 41, after the match, but it is still unclear what happened. The linesman was photographed lying on the ground afterwards and eyewitnesses say he was kicked and punched in the head and neck.
Nieuwenhuizen died shortly after in the hospital.
"All eight are suspected of being accomplices in Robert Nieuwenhuizen's manslaughter," prosecutor Joost Zeilstra told the court. "He was kicked in the head, neck and body, resulting in death."
Each of the defendants has their own lawyer and they are expected to argue that Nieuwenhuizen had an underlying condition that contributed to or caused his death.
A British pathologist testified for the defense that the victim may have had died from causes including a spontaneous, fatal tear in his carotid artery, which delivers blood to the brain through the neck. But experts for the prosecution disagreed over the likelihood of such an anomaly.
"Five days of hearings are planned, which is fairly exceptional," said prosecution spokeswoman Jetty Bult. "But this is a complicated affair, there are lots of suspects and it's about establishing what happened very quickly, in a minute, based on testimony."
The teenagers could receive a sentence of between one and two years in a special penitentiary for minors if found guilty. The maximum punishment for homicide for the adult, a father of one of the teenagers identified as El-Hasan, is 15 years in jail.
Violence in football
Nieuwenhuizen's death sparked outrage in the football world, with many noting recent attacks on referees.
"You can't imagine it happening," said Frank de Boer, coach of the Netherland's most prominent club, Ajax. "That boys of 15, 16 years short circuit like that, you wonder about the parenting."
More than 12,000 people attended a silent march for Nieuwenhuizen in Almere on December 9.
"This business has really affected the Netherlands because someone was beaten up on a football field, somewhere you normally go to have fun," said Bult.
Nieuwenhuizen is survived by his wife and son Alain, who was playing in the match.
dr/rc (AP, AFP, SID,dpa)