Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Alex S is accused of selling a lethal white powder to hundreds of people in the Netherlands

A lethal drug allegedly sold by a right-to-die campaigner may have had a role in the deaths of 33 people in the Netherlands, prosecutors say.

The trial of a man accused of selling the so-called suicide powder to hundreds of people opened on Wednesday.

Alex S from Eindhoven was arrested in July on suspicion of illegally assisting suicide, selling drugs and money laundering.

Investigators initially thought the man may have had a role in six deaths.

But in court, prosecutors in the city of Den Bosch said the number of deaths linked to the drug might be far higher.

At least 15 people died after using the drug they bought from Alex S, while a further 18 deaths were still under investigation, prosecutors said.

Dutch media say Alex S was a member of the Last Will Cooperative, a right-to-die campaign group.

Prosecutors are investigating the group over allegations a deadly powder known as drug X was sold at its meetings. The investigation has led to the arrest and questioning of several other members, including its chairman.

The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002, albeit under strict conditions.

These include that the patients must be enduring "unbearable and endless suffering", and that at least two doctors agree to the procedure. Unless these conditions are met, assisting suicide is illegal.

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However, some Dutch campaigners argue that these restrictions are too onerous on people who want to end their lives. The issue has proven extremely controversial and there has been strong opposition to liberalisation from some conservative Christian parties and academics.

In court, Alex S spoke briefly to argue that everyone should have the right to end their life. "We do not belong to anyone else, we can determine our own destiny," he told the court.

Prosecutors said Alex S sold the suicide drug from 2018 to July last year to "anyone who would want it". They said he used the messaging service Telegram, among other means, to do so.

Customers could have the drug sent to them for €20 (£16; $23) or pick it up themselves in Eindhoven, the court heard. Alex S earned at least €55,000 by selling the drug, the RTL Nieuws TV channel reported.

The court said Alex S could be released from custody under certain conditions while the investigation continues.

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