Mohammed Bouyeri, the convicted murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, told prosecutors today that comparing him to Osama bin Laden was “too much honour” for him.
Bouyeri, 27, who is already serving a life sentence for Van Gogh’s murder in November 2004, is on trial again on charges of leading a terrorist organisation.
“Comparing me to Osama bin Laden wrongs him and is too much honour for me,” Bouyeri said as he started presenting his own defence.
Bouyeri says he carried out the murder alone because he believed that Van Gogh had insulted Islam in a film criticising the treatment of Muslim women.
In the new trial, in which he is charged as a member of a criminal group that planned terrorist attacks, Bouyeri insisted on presenting his own defence and was granted three hours to speak.
He faces no additional punishment since his previous sentence has no parole. But prosecutors felt his inclusion in the group would increase the chances other alleged members would be convicted.
Bouyeri, who was born in Amsterdam of Moroccan parents, began his allotted time with a prayer in Arabic.
Wearing a red-checkered head scarf, he said he felt “honoured” by prosecutors’ accusation that his philosophy was similar to that of the al-Qaeda leader, then embarked on a rambling discussion of Islamic history and law.
He said that good non-Muslims should be treated fairly because “Allah loves the just”, but that leaders of non-Muslims who are dishonest should be killed.
“Kill them, and Allah will help you and guide your hand,” Bouyeri said. “There’s no room there for doubt or interpretation there.”
He said that killing one innocent Muslim is morally equivalent to killing all Muslims, and then remarked in English: “That’s for your administration, Uncle Bush,” in an apparent reference to the US President.
In their two-day closing statement last week, prosecutors said that Bouyeri and other members of group, known as the Hofstad Network, followed a cult-like vision of Islam that was bound to end in violent attacks.
Evidence entered against the 13 men included wiretaps, Internet chat room messages, weapons and blueprints seized in raids, al-Qaeda propaganda, and farewell testaments written by some members apparently in preparation for suicide attacks. Most attended meetings at Bouyeri’s Amsterdam apartment.
Other defecse lawyers who have yet to present their full arguments have so far said that the suspects were just friends who shared common religious beliefs and should not be convicted because of their association with other group members.
Prosecutors have sought 20-year sentences for two suspects, Jason Walters and Ismail Aknikh, who resisted arrest in a a daylong standoff with police in The Hague in a sweep after Van Gogh’s murder.
Walters allegedly threw a hand grenade that wounded three officers before he was taken into custody on November 10, 2004.
All the suspects were charged under a new law that makes “participation in a terrorist group” a crime. The law aims to empower police to stop terrorists before they act.
Prosecutors asked for a 10-year sentence for Nouredine el Fahtni, accused of being a ringleader. Investigators say he planned to attack Dutch politicians, along with Walters and Aknikh. El Fahtni was caught with a loaded machine gun after a chase in June 2005, prosecutors said.
Sentences of between 18 months and four years were sought for other suspects accused of being followers and supporters.