ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) – Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday they will charge the man jailed for life for murdering filmmaker Theo van Gogh as a member of an Islamic terror network believed to have plotted attacks against politicians.
The Hofstad Network was rounded up in the weeks following Van Gogh’s Nov. 2 slaying. Prosecutors say they were plotting to kill Parliament members Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both fierce critics of radical Islam.
On Friday, the same court is due to have an arraignment hearing for Rachid Belkacem, 32, who was deported to the Netherlands by British authorities in response to a Dutch arrest warrant.
Belkacem, who was arrested in June on suspicion of belonging to the Hofstad group, dropped his fight against extradition last week. He would be the 13th member of the group.
Another teenager who was detained as part of the network was released last May for lack of evidence.
Prosecutor Alexander van Dam said he expected the trial to begin in December. A final hearing seeking an extension of custody would be held in September, he told the court.
Prosecutors have had little success in winning convictions following pre-emptive arrests. The latest setback came last April when Samir Azzouz, 18, was acquitted of charges of a terrorist conspiracy to attack Parliament, Amsterdam‘s Schiphol Airport or a nuclear reactor.
Although the session Wednesday was the third preliminary hearing for the group, the security surrounding the Rotterdam District Court was elevated to unprecedented levels, with a high solid metal barrier blocking access to the courthouse.
The Netherlands reinstated border controls after the recent London terror attacks, and several prominent officials considered potential targets are under increased surveillance.
The defendants were rounded up in the weeks following Van Gogh’s slaying and accused of belonging to a radical Muslim underground called the Hofstad Network.
Two suspects were arrested after a daylong standoff with police in The Hague on Nov. 10 during which they hurled a hand grenade at police, wounding two officers.
In Tuesday’s verdict, the judges in Amsterdam acquitted Bouyeri of operating as part of a terrorist cell when he shot and stabbed Van Gogh. But prosecutors in the Rotterdam case have alleged that Bouyeri was a leader of the Hofstad Network.
The alleged spiritual leader of the group, Redouan al-Issar, reportedly has been arrested by Syrian authorities.