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Fortuyn gunman spared life term • Wednesday April 16, 2003

BBC, Apr. 15, 2003

The man who killed Dutch anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn has been jailed for 18 years.

Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for 33-year-old Volkert van der Graaf, who shot Fortuyn as he left a radio studio last year.

But the court in Amsterdam ruled that Van der Graaf should receive the lighter 18-year sentence to give him the chance of rehabilitation. He could be freed by 2014.

Van der Graaf said he killed Fortuyn – the then leader of the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF) – to protect Muslim immigrants and other “vulnerable” members of society.

The shooting in Hilversum on 6 May, 2002, stunned the Netherlands – it was the country’s first political killing since World War II.

Van der Graaf’s lawyers had argued that a life sentence – usually reserved for serial killers who show no remorse – would be extraordinarily harsh in this case.

The judges told the court on Tuesday that they agreed.

“All considered, a sentence of life imprisonment would not be appropriate in this case,” said presiding judge Frans Bauduin. “Therefore we are giving a fixed term of imprisonment.”

The judges said they had taken into account that the murder had damaged Dutch democracy, had been premeditated and had been carried out “at close range and with deadly precision”.

“The political values and the way we engage in the democratic debate were violated in an extreme manner and the crime has shocked the legal order severely,” said Mr Bauduin.

But he said there was only a small possibility of Van der Graaf offending again, and he deserved a chance to be rehabilitated.

The decision brought an angry reaction from some Fortuyn supporters in the public gallery, who booed the judges before storming out of the court.

They later jeered and threw rubbish at the car taking Van der Graaf away to begin his sentence.

Van der Graaf gunned down Fortuyn as he left the radio studio in Hilversum, after lying in wait for him in bushes nearby.

He told the court that he regretted the killing, but said Fortuyn’s rise in popularity could be compared to that of Hitler.

Van der Graaf said he still “wrestled” with the question of whether he was right to carry out the attack.

“Every day I see it before me. I see myself shoot and Fortuyn fall,” he told the court.

Killer ‘sane’

The prosecution said Van der Graaf had shown little remorse and had carried out the killing in a “cold and calculating” manner.

A psychiatrists’ report presented to the court concluded that Van der Graaf was sane.

It said he was a highly intelligent perfectionist who was emotionally uncommunicative and intolerant of those with different values to his own.

Shortly after the killing, the LPF scored a major success in national elections and entered a coalition government for the first time.

But in-fighting later brought the government down and the LPF lost most of its support at the election which followed.

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