December 5, 2005

Dutch Islamist trial hears of gruesome films

By Wendel Broere

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - 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 establish an Islamic state through

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

"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

"The views in the writings are extreme ... Few who have an
idea of Islamic law would agree with the ideas," Peters said.

Copies of a letter threatening leading Dutch politicians
that was pinned to Van Gogh's chest with a knife were found on
computers belonging to several of the suspects.

Van Gogh's killing on November 2, 2004, stoked tensions
with the 1 million Muslims living in the Netherlands, about a
third of whom have Moroccan roots, and prompted a wave of
tit-for-tat attacks on mosques, religious schools and churches.

Two of the suspects, Jason Walters and Ismail Akhnikh, will
also be tried for trying to kill police officers with a hand
grenade when they arrested them and for threats to two

The date for a verdict for the 2-1/2 month trial has been
pencilled in for February 24.