Two former Dutch prime ministers could face prosecution for acknowledging the continued fielding of nuclear arms in the Netherlands, Xinhua news service reported on Thursday.
Although the existence of an estimated two dozen atomic-armed U.S. bombs at Volkel air base is something of an open secret, recent statements made in media interviews could be a violation of national law, Dutch public prosecutors were said to have announced.
"If you go to Volkel now, we still have 'parts' that fulfill a nuclear function," Ruud Lubbers, who led the nation between 1982 and 1994, said in a National Geographic segment aired last Saturday.
Dries van Agt, who headed the government for five years prior to Lubbers, also addressed the presence of the atomic arms in a subsequent media appearance.
"Oh well, these things [nuclear weapons] are of course there for a long time," he told a radio show on Wednesday. "It is absurd that they still are there."
Prosecutors on Wednesday said the comments might have violated a law that prohibits former government leaders from revealing state secrets, Xinhua reported. The Dutch government declined comment on the veracity of the prior leaders' references to the nuclear basing.
The one-time prime ministers are unlikely to face prison sentences even if they are found to have violated the state secrecy law, the news service quoted Paul Bovend'Eert, a Nijmegen University professor of constitutional law, as saying. It remains uncertain if there is even a valid legal case, in his view.
"It's difficult, it depends ... Has Lubbers simply repeated what was already an open secret or did he speak of knowledge he had as a prime minister?" Bovend'Eert reportedly said. "If the latter is the case, he violated his professional secrecy."