The ex-wife and accomplice of Marc Dutroux, the convicted child murderer whose crimes horrified and shocked Belgium in the mid-1990s, is to be released from prison and sent to a convent.

Dutroux was arrested in 1996 and later found guilty of kidnapping and raping six girls.

He killed two of them and left two others to starve to death in a makeshift dungeon.

His former wife, Michelle Martin, was sentenced to 30 years in jail for her part in helping Dutroux.

Having served half of her term, Martin has been cleared for conditional release, and a court in the southern Belgian city of Mons accepted a plan to house her in a convent.

Martin's lawyer told reporters after the hearing that his client was likely to be released in about two weeks. He said she was a changed woman.

The court ruled that Martin, who was not in court, could go to the Clarisse Convent in Malonne, a village 60km southeast of Brussels.

This was her fifth legal bid to be released from prison, although prosecutors could launch an appeal.

The Dutroux crimes have haunted Belgium for years leading authorities to take measures to improve the safety of children.

The crimes also raised questions about the negligence of police and possible complicity of justice authorities.

In 1996, around 300,000 people dressed in white marched through Brussels to demand reforms of the political and judicial systems.