Dutch Scout leader on trial for allegedly branding children

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A youth leader in the Netherlands went on trial Thursday for branding three children with a hot iron during a Scouting initiation ceremony.

Prosecution spokeswoman Elke Kool said the 23-year-old suspect is accused of burning two letters into the backs of three children between the ages of 11 and 13 at a camp in Belgium last summer. Kool said the initiation ceremony usually involved stamping the letters on children's backs in ink, but the youth leader allegedly used a heated iron for unknown reasons.

Dutch broadcaster RTL reported that the man's defense lawyer told the court his client did not realize the iron was hot and had accidentally branded the children. He told the court that children yelling in apparent pain was part of the ceremony involving them being stamped with ink.

The lawyer asked for his client to be acquitted.

Prosecutors demanded a 7-month prison sentence with three months suspended. The verdict is expected in two weeks.

Scouting Nederland condemned the man's alleged actions, saying "it is terrible what happened." The organization said he had been suspended from active duty and will be expelled if convicted.

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