AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: An appeals court on Thursday increased the prison sentences of four Islamic radicals accused of plotting attacks on Dutch politicians, convicting them of the additional charge of membership in a terrorist organization.
The Hague appeals court re-convicted the four Dutch nationals of Moroccan descent for plotting attacks, and said trial evidence showed they were part of a single group, as prosecutors had argued.
Judges cited their adherence to a single violent belief system, their training with firearms, and their coordinated efforts to find the addresses of Dutch politicians on a hit-list, including the prime minister.
The court’s judges added a year to the sentence of ringleader Samir Azzouz, 22, giving him a total of nine years in prison. Azzouz had videotaped a suicide testament.
Both defendants and prosecutors had appealed the original ruling. The defendants asked for acquittal and the prosecutors sought longer sentences, including 15 years for Azzouz.
Azzouz “has made it apparent that he despises Dutch society,” judges said in a written ruling. “He has shown that he has no respect for those who have different views and knows no compassion for the potential victims of the acts he planned.”
Azzouz evaded jail twice in investigations into alleged terrorist activities. The first time, he was caught with bomb-making materials, but he was released without charge on a technicality.
He later was charged with planning an attack, but was acquitted when the judges ruled his preparations were not advanced enough to prove a terrorist intent.
While testifying as a defense witness in a case against several of his friends, Azzouz told judges: “We reject your system. We hate you. I guess that about sums it up.”
AMSTERDAM, 03/10/08 – The appeal court in The Hague ruled yesterday that the so-called Piranha network is a criminal organisation with a terrorist objective. Main suspect Samir Azzouz was sentenced to nine years in jail.
Azzouz participated in a terrorist organisation in which he had a coordinating role and which plotted terrorist attacks against politicians including Prime Minister Balkenende and MPs Geert Wilders and Jan Marijnissen. Evidence included a video testament in which he said goodbye to family and friends in October 2005, with an eye to his impending ‘martyr’s death.’ Azzouz also recruited Jihad warriors, the appeal court established.
The judges gave an 8-year sentence to Nouredine el Fatmi. Like Azzouz, he was an active and leading member of the network. Mohammed Chentouf got 6 years, Soumaya Sahla, who was unofficially married to El Fatmi, got 4 years and a man described as Mohammed H. got three months in jai.
All suspects were ‘homegrown’ terrorists with Dutch and Moroccan passports.
In another court case, the judges ruled earlier that the so-called Hofstad group was not beyond a reasonable doubt a terrorist organisation. El Fatmi was also in that network, whose leader Mohammed Bouyeri assassinated Islam-critic Theo van Gogh in November 2004. El Fatmi is serving a 5-year sentence for his Hofstad activities, including carrying a loaded machine gun in a rucksack.
Azzouz was arrested repeatedly for terrorist activities. The first time, he was caught on his way to Chechnya. He was charged with planning an attack in the Netherlands later, but was acquitted once again – he had bought the wrong fertiliser for his bomb recipe, so that his preparations were not advanced enough to prove a terrorist intent.