A trial seen as a test of tougher new anti-terrorism laws in the Netherlands is due to reach its climax today. Amid tight security, a verdict will be delivered on 14 suspected Islamist militants including the convicted killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Mohammed Bouyeri is already serving a life sentence for the murder. At his trial he maintained he had acted alone.
Prosecutors claim Bouyeri led what has been dubbed the Hofstad group, a radical network of young men in their 20s, mainly of Moroccan origin. They are suspected of plotting attacks on unspecified targets. The new charge of “membership of a criminal organisation with terrorist intent” is intended to enable militants to be convicted before the attacks they plan are carried out. Defence lawyers argue there is not enough evidence against their clients, who they say are being persecuted for being Muslims. Theo Van Gogh, a critic of radical Islam, was shot and stabbed as he cycled through Amsterdam. His murder and a violent backlash that followed severely strained race relations. The issue featured prominently in Dutch local elections this week in which the ruling coalition suffered a disappointing result.