Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Theo Van Gogh

Test of European Anti-Terror Laws
— New Chapter

July 11, 2005, the first day of Bouyeri's trial, the Financial Times pointed out that the Theo van Gogh case is seen as a test of anti-terrorism laws being introduced across Europe.  "Bouyeri is the first person to be prosecuted in the Netherlands since new anti-terrorism laws were introduced as a response to the failure of earlier attempts to convict radical Islamists as terrorists."

"Since the September, 11 2001 attacks on the US, the Dutch authorities have been given the power to arrest people on suspicion of intent to commit a terrorist act and to charge suspects for conspiracy or belonging to a group with terrorist intentions. Courts can also consider previously inadmissible evidence gathered by intelligence agencies from anonymous sources."

Bouyeri faces two life sentences if found guilty, one for murder and the other for preventing Ali from carrying out her work. He is also charged for attempted murder, including that of police officers and bystanders and possession of deadly weapons.

Prosecutor, Frans van Straelen
Prosecutor, Frans van Straelen

During a preliminary hearing in January 2005, Mohammed chose not to appear in the Amsterdam-Osdorp courthouse to hear the charges against him but instead asked to remain imprisoned in his cell in The Hague. At the pretrial, prosecutor Frans van Straelen suggested that Bouyeri murdered Van Gogh in a sacrificial manner as a way to make a political statement and seek retribution for insults against Islam. Toby Sterling reported in an AP Online article that Bouyeri left documents with family and friends in which he stated, "it not be long before the knights of Allah march into the Hague" and also saying "Parliament will be made into a Sharia (Islamic law) court." The article further stated that on the night before Van Gogh's murder, Hofstad members Ismael A. and Jason Walters, visited Bouyeri and one of the men was taped saying "We slaughtered a lamb in the traditional Islamic fashion. From now on, this will be the punishment for anyone in this land who challenges and insults Allah and his messengers."

Defense Attorney, Peter Plasman
Defense Attorney, Peter Plasman

During the proceedings, questions were raised about Bouyeri's mental state. His defense lawyer, Peter Plasman, made it clear to the court that his client was fully aware of the charges against him and that he "wants to be held fully responsible for his actions," Agence France Presse reported. Thus, he does not want any psychological tests because he believes he was in a sound state of mind at the time of the murder. Regardless, the judge ordered that Bouyeri undergo a psychiatric evaluation to measure his mental state and competency to stand trial.

Two months after the Bouyeri preliminary hearings, terror suspect and alleged Hofstad member Samir A., 18, was acquitted of planning terror attacks on Schiphol Airport, a nuclear power plant, Dutch Parliament and other government buildings. His acquittal was based on lack of evidence connecting him to the plot, even though there were maps of the alleged attacks with handwritten notes on them, radical Islamic material, including "advice on how to carry out attacks" and firearms found at his apartment, reported. News of his acquittal sparked outrage throughout the Netherlands making many wonder if justice will ever be served, especially during the trial of Bouyeri. 

According to Edwin Bakker, Dutch terrorism expert, "There is this strong idea that the fight against terrorism in this country is very weak and that the terrorists always get away with it," said Bakker. "If [the Bouyeri] case is successfully prosecuted it will be very important for public opinion and political decision-making. It is crucial not only for the Hofstad trial but in setting a wider example."


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