An elderly American couple who are committed to human rights were arrested on Sunday at Schiphol airport. The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee suspects them of people smuggling.
According to Bob Fu, the chairman of the Christian human rights organization ChinaAid, Michael J. Horowitz (83) and his wife Devra Marcus (81) were arrested during a “rescue” for the wife and children of Kazakhstani activist Serikzjan Bilash. Horowitz and Marcus accompanied the woman to the Marechaussee so that she could apply for asylum in the Netherlands. There, the American couple was arrested, Fu said. The chairman of ChinaAid calls the arrest “more than absurd”.
A spokesman for the Marechaussee confirms that an elderly American couple has been arrested on suspicion of human smuggling. The two traveled together with a Kazakh woman and three children from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro with a stopover in Amsterdam. According to the spokesperson, there is a suspicion that the transfer at Schiphol was only for the purpose of applying for asylum: “This would mean misuse of the transit space.” The Kazakh family has been included in the asylum procedure, the American couple is still detained.
Michael J. Horowitz is a prominent lawyer who served in senior civil service under President Reagan. For the past twenty years he has been affiliated with the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. As such, he was involved in the drafting of US anti-smuggling laws. Devra Marcus is a retired doctor who has been campaigning for human rights for decades.
According to Bob Fu, the couple were willing to help bring the family of activist Serikzjan Bilash to safety, who was detained for some time in Kazakhstan for drawing attention to the repression of Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhstani in China’s Xinjiang province.
After Kazakhstan issued an international search warrant against him, Bilash fled headlong from Turkey to the US. Because there were indications that his wife and children were also in danger, Bob Fu’s organization decided to launch a rescue operation – by transferring the family from Turkey to the Netherlands. Horowitz and Marcus were willing to escort the woman, Fu said.
The director of ChinaAid calls the arrest of the couple “totally unnecessary, the Netherlands is a fantastic ally, especially in the field of human rights”.
In a statement, Michael Horowitz said he and his wife “are not people smugglers.” “However long I’m kept in my cell, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to help two of the most extraordinary heroes I’ve ever known, along with their three young children.”