A Dutch-Moroccan man accused of murdering a filmmaker critical of Islam believed he was doing God’s will and wanted to die a “martyr” at the hands of the police, prosecutors told a pre-trial hearing yesterday.
Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, is charged with the 2 November shooting and stabbing of Theo van Gogh, whose film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women outraged many Muslims.
The suspect, who was injured in a gun battle with police before he was arrested in eastern Amsterdam, was not at the hearing.
“In a letter to his family he said he had chosen to do his duty to Allah and to give his soul for paradise,” the prosecutor, Frits van Straelen, said.
“[He] wanted to become a martyr.”
The killing, which aroused memories of the murder of the anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn by an animal rights activist in 2002, provoked a spate of attacks on mosques and Islamic schools across the Netherlands, highlighting rising hostility towards foreigners in a country once renowned for its tolerance.
It also led to soul-searching and heated debate about how to improve integration of the country’s one million Muslims.
Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister, convened a meeting with community and religious groups in The Hague yesterday to discuss ways to reduce racial tension.
“There is the danger that people and groups become embittered and alienated and turn away from each other. We must reverse that tide,” the ANP news agency quoted him as saying.