AMSTERDAM — A group of suspected Islamists, including the jailed killer of a Dutch filmmaker, watched films of beheadings, a court heard as they went on trial on Monday for plotting attacks and belonging to a terrorist group.
Dutch police arrested the 14 men after the murder of Theo van Gogh last November by Mohammed Bouyeri, who shot and stabbed the filmmaker before slashing his throat, an act prosecutors said at his trial in July “evoked beheadings in the Middle East, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Prosecutors suspect Bouyeri, now serving life in jail, held meetings in his home for the group, who they say wanted to destabilize society [and] establish an Islamic state through violence.
The trial is a test of a new Dutch law, which introduced the charge of “membership of a criminal organization with terrorist intent” carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years. The group of Muslim men are of largely Moroccan immigrant descent.
Monday’s proceedings, in a packed high-security court nicknamed the “bunker,” started with an attempt to question Malika Chabi, the 17-year-old former wife of one of the accused, Nouriddin El Fatmi, also known as Fouad.
Dressed in a long, rose-colored robe with a black headscarf, Chabi refused to speak in court, but the statement she had given to police earlier was read out by the presiding judge.
“A throat must be cut from the front, but not entirely so there is maximum suffering. Fouad said this while a film was shown on which people were beheaded,” her statement said.
“He showed knives and films about slaughtering and showed us how to take a knife out of its scabbard and said he and Bouyeri stole sheep from a farm to practice slaughtering.”
The judge said Chabi told police that El Fatmi had said they should drive a car carrying explosives into a shopping center to die as martyrs and then quoted verses from the Koran.
“You also watched a film featuring Osama bin Laden in which there were songs about jihad and that sort of thing, you were given cassettes by El Morabit with sermons in which death was wished upon the United States,” the judge said.
Mohamed El Morabit is one of the accused.
Another suspect, Zine Labadine Aouraghe, said in May that “there is no group, and if there were a group, I do not belong to it.” The others have made no comment on the charges.
Ruud Peters, an Amsterdam University Islam expert who analyzed data on computers seized in the suspects’ homes, told the court that in one text Bouyeri declared war on the Netherlands due to its support for the United States and Israel.