Lawyer reads out in court letters from alleged rape victims

The trial has started of four defendants accused of involvement in a gang rape at an Antwerp hotel at the beginning of the year.  The alleged victims are two Dutch women visiting the northern port city.  The incident happened after they returned to their hotel after partying at a night club.

All four defendants are of African heritage and in their twenties.  The Dutch women were on a city trip to Antwerp.  Two of the defendants accompanied the women back to their hotel after visiting a night spot. The two men later let two friends into the room.  One man has admitted rape.  The others say the women were willing sex partners.  The women allege items were also stolen during the incident.

Prosecutors are seeking a 7-year jail sentence for each of the defendants.  The case is being held behind closed doors.  The women's lawyer read out letters written by the victims to the defendants explaining how they had destroyed their lives.  One of the women wrote: "The pain goes on and on.  Time and time again I hear my best friend say 'stop'.  I freeze every time this horror film repeats itself!"

The other victim writes: "I always blame myself.  I wish I had never danced with you.  If I had said 'no' or 'stop' more, maybe you would have got the message."