Prosecutors say plot aimed at establishing Islamic theocracy
AMSTERDAM – The man accused of murdering Theo van Gogh, a filmmaker critical of Islam, dreamed of replacing the Dutch government with an Islamic theocracy and was supported by a network of like-minded fanatics, prosecutors said Wednesday at the first public hearing in the case.
The suspect, Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, an Amsterdam native, did not appear at the pretrial hearing, but his lawyer said Bouyeri wanted to “be held accountable for his actions” and saw them as part of a religious war.
The new details underscored concerns over homegrown radicals in the Netherlands after the Nov. 2 killing of Van Gogh.
The filmmaker had offended many Muslims with his film “Submission,” which criticized the treatment of women under Islam.
“The murder made it clear that terrorism, inspired by an extreme interpretation of Islam, is a reality in our country,” said one prosecutor, Frits van Straelen.
“From the beginning there were signs that the murder did not come out of the brain of just this suspect, but that there was an organization behind it,” van Straelen said.
Bouyeri faces charges of murder, attempted murder, threatening politicians, possession of an illegal firearm and impeding democracy. He could be sentenced to life if convicted.
He and 12 others face separate charges in connection with an alleged plot to kill politicians and for allegedly belonging to a terrorist group known as the “Hofstad” network.
The prosecutors said the network had provided support for the killing of van Gogh.
Prosecutors said radicals were only a tiny fraction of the Dutch Muslim community, which comprises about 6 percent of the population of 16 million.
Judges ordered Bouyeri to undergo psychological examination and said they would schedule another pretrial hearing within 90 days.
On the basis of statements from 53 eyewitnesses, prosecutors said Bouyeri had approached van Gogh while both bicycled on a busy street, shot him, chased him across the street, shot him again, then cut his throat nearly to the spinal cord with an enormous kitchen knife before pinning a note to his chest with another knife.
The note, released by the Justice Ministry in November, threatened prominent politicians and threatened a holy war against nonbelievers.
Bouyeri twice ignored pleas for mercy from van Gogh, prosecutors said.
They said he yelled at a bystander who challenged him: “Now you know what’s coming for you.”
He then went in pursuit of the police, shooting one officer who was saved by a bulletproof vest.
In all, Bouyeri fired 30 rounds before he was shot in the leg and taken into custody, prosecutors said.
“What’s extraordinary is the calmness with which he did this,” van Straelen said, adding that he believed Bouyeri had practiced extensively. “Several witnesses described how he coolly knelt next to van Gogh’s body and reloaded his gun.”
Bouyeri’s defense lawyer, Peter Plasman, said that his client had “made it known by his actions that he expected to die Nov. 2.”
Bouyeri had a will in his pocket when he was arrested.
Prosecutors said Bouyeri also left documents for his friends and family, including an article that predicted it would “not be long before the knights of Allah march into The Hague.”
“Parliament will be remade into a Sharia” court, or Islamic law court, the article said.
The evening before the killing two members of the Hofstad group visited Bouyeri, prosecutors said.
Van Straelen said a telephone tap after the killing recorded one of the two saying: “We slaughtered a lamb in the traditional Islamic fashion. From now on, this will be the punishment for anyone in this land who challenges and insults Allah and his messengers.”
The killing of Van Gogh, a distant relative of the artist Vincent van Gogh, set off a spate of mosque burnings and retaliatory arson attempts on churches in a country famed for tolerance and a history of peaceful debate.