(Vatican Radio) Dutch Justice Minister, Ard van der Steur, has resigned in a row over a 2001 compensation payment to a convicted drug trafficker. His departure is seen as a blow to the government of Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte ahead of upcoming elections.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
The visibly emotional Van der Steur resigned after a six-hour grilling by opposition parties. "I see, I notice and I feel that my answers don't matter....Many already have already drawn their political conclusions," he told Parliament.
He added he wanted to defend himself against trumped-up charges. But now, he said, "I'm handing in my resignation to his Majesty the King (Willem-Alexander). Thank you."
Minister Van der Steur is the third member of Prime Minister Rutte's government to resign over the scandal.Former Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and his junior minister, Fred Teeven, resigned in 2015 after misleading parliament over the 2001 deal.
The affair revolves around a deal prosecutors reached with a drug trafficker, Cees Helman, who received roughly $2.1 million dollars in exchange for crucial information.
Van der Steur has been criticized for his role in answers provided to parliament over the issue. He has denied advising certain information be withheld.
Prime Minnister Rutte has also come under fire from opposition politicians. The latest resignation comes while his centre-right Liberal VVD party is already trailing in opinion polls ahead of a general election in March.
The Freedom Party, led by anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, is leading public opinion polls.