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Turning off the red lights

City officials say they will shut down the red lights and close about a third of the prostitution "windows" in Amsterdam's famed Red Light District, where scantily-clad ladies of the night have beckoned customers for hundreds of years.

The move is part of a crackdown on crime in the area, officials say.

"We're not knights on a morality crusade, and this is intended to target financial crime, not prostitution per se," city spokesman Martien Maten said Thursday.

"But we do think it will change the face of the Red Light District."

The Dutch government legalized prostitution in 2000 to make it easier to tax and regulate.

Maten said the city is now making use of a new law to revoke brothels' licenses when it suspects operators have used them for money laundering or other illegal financial activity.

"In concrete terms (that) means that those involved won't be able to continue their businesses" after the measures takes effect on Jan. 1, the city said in a statement.

But advocacy groups for prostitutes said the move was misguided, since it will hurt the women who act as independent contractors renting space behind the windows. Brothel owners said they would appeal the decision in court.

"The biggest problem we have is with pimps on the street, not the people who own the windows," said Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who now runs the Prostitution Information Center in the heart of the Red Light District.

"Local politicians don't understand that. Because they want to crack down on crime so badly they are acting like bulls in a china shop," she said.

"Fat" Charlie Geerts, who owns 20 buildings in the district and 60 of the windows slated for closure, said he would appeal the decision. Prosecutors cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing in September 2005.

"You're hurting a bunch of people who have nothing to do with it (crime)," he told local television station AT5.

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