‘Leader of gang of muscle-men goes into hiding to avoid jail sentence’
The Amsterdam public prosecutor A. Zijlstra, demanded on Friday, August 20th. two years in jail, six months probation, against the rogue real estate developer Bertus Lüske (55) for attempted murder of three squatters, man handeling and destruction of personal property. She also thought it was just to demand a compensation of in total 2750 guilders for four aggrieved residents of the ADM terrain.
Lüske's absence at the session caused some frictions between the court and lawyer Spong, who on two occasions asked on behalf of his client to stall the case because the public prosecutor had at the last moment made some minor changes to the charge. Although Spong had no idea where Lüske was staying, he first wanted to consult with his client in hiding. Through chairman Bartels, the court ruled that the defendant himself had weakened his defense by not being present. In fact, he should be present as this was one of the conditions for his provisional release, which followed upon the 35 days remand. For that reason his name was immediately put on the telex of wanted persons (There already seems to a sighting of some helpful Amsterdam squatters, who cycled via Lüske's office at the Weesperzijde, to his home in Huizen).
When Lüske's lawyer doggedly continued his delaying tactics, by now it was the fault of his secretary, that Lüske was not there, Bartels asked Spong to quit whining. ,,We’re not letting you treat us like little boys”, he snapped at the lawyer, who then in his turn felt offended.
After the mood was set, the substantive part of the case could start, under the watchful eye of a packed public gallery. There were people who knew exactly what happened on that fateful Saturday morning of April 24th., 1998 on the terrain of the former Amsterdam Dry Dock Company. Around six o'clock in the morning, Lüske came for the third time within a few months to his 28 million guilders costing building, which since October 1997 is inhabited by thirty squatters. This time he was in the company of fifteen burly guys and the largest shovel he could hire.
Lüske did not want to wait any longer for an eviction notice and decided himself to start the demolition. While people were sleeping, the shovel began to tear down the building. That no one was injured by glass flying around and falling concrete was a small miracle. Also two police officers who came quickly to the scene, couldn’t change Lüske’s scheme. His behaviour was somewhere between that of a cheerleader, a camp commandant and a conductor of a Finnish scream choir.
In between bossing around, the former boxer found also the opportunity to administer a "metered" blow to one of the residents, after he had refused to remove his truck, which he had parked in front of the building to protect it. Initially the victim thought that he was hit by a Neanderthals, but the description of the perpetrator: blond, slothful, scar on the face appeared to be similar to that of Lüske.
Only with the arrival of more police Lüske quit his "dangerous and foolish action", as prosecutor Zijlstra's described the actions of the accused. That Lüske had chosen an unusual time (six o'clock in the morning) and quietly pulled up, points according to the officer, to a calculated raid.
Because the facts are so serious, she wanted to disconnect the case from the squatting issue. That was not OK with Spong, as he emphasized the historical context. ,,The property is owned by him and after he had the demolition permit, he wanted to demolish. He just doesn’t understands the law and has underestimated the consequences of his action." That Lüske already twice before had visited, with a gang of muscle-men, the ADM, when he had not a license for anything, he did not mention.
Also the reputation of Lüske as uncrowned king of the muscle-men’ gangs didn’t come up in Spong's treatise on the historical context. Interestingly, in his assertion he stated that his client wanted to demolish the building because the squatters were wrecking the building. Attempted murder, according to the lawyer, was out of the question, since Lüske didn’t known better than that squatters were sleeping in boats and caravans around the building. But a moment later the counselor claimed that Lüske had firstly sent men in, to see if anyone was sleeping there. ,,This pleas in his favor, because if there had been foul play, he had not deemed it necessary to first look inside the building", according to Spong.
On the exact course of events the opinions differ. The squatters came with fairly consistent statements, while members of the muscle-men gang (employees of the companies Steenkorrel BV, Oudtzwanenburg BV, D. Kuiper Transport & Kraanverhuur and A & B dienstverlening en advies) came up with varying statements about what happened. Spong said to attach more value to varying statements because these differences are ,,a proof of good repute''.
Altogether Spong said that Lüske had paid his dues. If the court nonetheless decided to convict him, he suggested that community services or fines were called for. The compensation where lawyer Betty Wind, on behalf of the four squatters asked for, four times one thousand guilders, reduced by the prosecutor to three times 750 and 500 guilders for the beaten man, he called unreasonable. ,,We have to distribute the pain on both sides'', said Spong, who stressed that his client is ,,a victim of the policy of tolerance'', pointing to the decision (in the beginning of 1998) of the public justice department, to not (yet) proceed with eviction.
Wind in response to Spong's idea of distributing the pain equally, stated that: “no one deserves what happened to my clients’’, and said that the small amount was only an advance on the amount the victims will demand in the lawsuit against Lüske, which will follow. Given his criminal record and reputation, his name appears on the parliamentary inquiry's list of 16 persons that lead criminal organizations, it appears that Lüske has to go back to jail and his career in glamorland, which he hoped to start, has to forget. The court will give it’s verdict on Friday, September 3rd. at 13.00.