Pubdate: Sun, 26 Apr 1998
Source: Scotland on Sunday
Contact:  James Murray Home Affairs Editor


Man working to free cannabis smuggler from Scottish jail admits receiving
payments from his family Exclusive

A justice organisation attempting to free a convicted drug-runner from jail
in Scotland has accepted cash payments from his family.

The case led to the death of the Customs officer Alastair Soutar, who was
crushed between the hulls of two boats during the operation to recover 10m
worth of cannabis.

Justice for All, run by James Stevenson, has denied that the payments have
come from the proceeds of drugs and claimed that the money has been used
for expenses to finance the group's fight to prove that Lieuwe Hoekstra,
from the Netherlands, and three of his relatives were wrongfully convicted.

The men, who are in Shotts prison, will represent themselves, with the
support of Justice for All, at an appeal hearing at the High Court in
Edinburgh next month.

Stevenson, 75, claimed that he has found flaws in transcripts of the trial
and has prepared documents which have been approved by a London barrister
and lodged with the court. The Scottish solicitors who originally
represented the men have withdrawn.

Stevenson and his colleagues, Peter Wright, 75, a retired lecturer, are not
lawyers, but they claim to have 14 years of experience in bringing appeals
against 'wrongful' convictions and are working on more than 100 cases
across Britain. "We are a bone fide justice group and we have every right
to take up appeals on behalf prisoners," said Stevenson. "We have no doubt
that the Scottish courts will recognise us."

Justice for All took up Hoekstra's case following an approach from his
sister Greta. Stevenson admitted he has received 400, but added: "They
[Scottish Customs] said I was being paid with drug money. In one way I am
pleased because it shows we have rattled their cages. They can come and
arrest us if they like. We are quite open about our finances, but it's none
of their business."

Stevenson said that he set up Justice for All because he was appalled with
injustices in the judicial system. "We are here to get the truth and to get
at justice. We have a track record of getting people out of prison and
getting their sentences reduced."

Hoekstra, 58, was captured in Operation Balvenie when Customs officers
swooped on the gang off the coast of Caithness in July 1996. It was claimed
that they had transferred several tonnes of Moroccan cannabis from their
boat, the Isolda, to the Ocean Jubilee. When Customs officers tried to
board the Jubilee, its illegal cargo was set on fire and Soutar was killed.

Roddy McLean, from Edinburgh, was revealed as the Mr Big behind the
smuggling operation and jailed for 28 years. Last week, in a court action
aimed at seizing his assets, a judge was told that he had earned more than
2m from the drugs trade. Hoekstra and Jan Van Rijs, 53, were each jailed
for 14 years.

The two other Dutchmen, Van Rijs's son Ronny, 30, and another relative,
Hendrick Van Rijs, 25, were jailed for 10 years.

Stevenson insisted that there were no drugs on the Isolda and that the
Dutch crew were on holiday when they were arrested off the Scottish coast.
"We are convinced these Dutch guys are innocent," he said. "They were
kidnapped on the high seas. They are not drug smugglers."

Greta Hoekstra, a mother of three married to a bank manager in Leeuwarden,
northern Holland, is furious with the allegations made by Scottish Customs.
"I think it is terrible for them to say we are paying him money. When he
makes expenses to see my brother we have to pay him, but we don't pay him a
salary. He is doing it for nothing, just to help us. The family has no
connection with the drugs trade. This has come as a big shock to me. My
brother is a kind, gentle man. He should not be in prison. The evidence is
flawed. They didn't get a fair trial."

Scottish Customs officials insisted that the Dutch gang is a major player
in international drug smuggling and that the appeal will fail.