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Dutch court begins van Gogh slaying case

The alleged killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh ignored his victim’s pleas for mercy and shot him at close range before slitting his throat, prosecutors said at a pretrial hearing in the case Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The alleged killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh ignored his victim’s pleas for mercy and calmly shot him at close range before slitting his throat, prosecutors said at the first public hearing in the murder case Wednesday.

Prosecutors gave the most detailed description yet of the Nov. 2 killing, when van Gogh was shot to death while bicycling to work in a residential Amsterdam neighborhood.

The suspect, Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, waived his right to attend the pretrial hearing and was represented by his attorney. Judges ordered Bouyeri to undergo psychological testing and said they would schedule a second pretrial hearing within 90 days.

“What’s extraordinary is the calmness with which he did this,” said the prosecutor, identified only as F. van Straelen. “Several witnesses described how he coolly knelt next to van Gogh’s body and reloaded his gun.”

An autopsy showed van Gogh’s throat had been cut nearly to the spinal cord with a kitchen knife.

Threats of jihad
A note impaled in van Gogh’s chest threatened prominent politicians and vowed Islamic holy war, or jihad, against nonbelievers.

A bystander who witnessed the crime yelled at van Gogh’s killer “You can’t do that!” to which the suspect replied: “Oh, yes I can. ... Now you know what’s coming for you.”

Bouyeri allegedly then walked away, apparently in search of police, van Straelen said. He opened fire at the first police car he found, injuring a police officer.

The gunman fired about 30 times in a shooting spree, van Straelen said.

Bouyeri faces charges of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, threatening politicians, possession of an illegal firearm and impeding democracy, and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. He is still recovering from a gunshot wound suffered during his arrest.

Killing seen as act of war
Bouyeri’s lawyer, Peter Plasman, said his client “wants to take responsibility for his actions” but gave no further explanation. He said Bouyeri agrees with the interpretation of Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm that van Gogh’s killing was a declaration of war.

Plasman said his client would refuse to cooperate with the psychological examination and that “if the suspect doesn’t cooperate, you get nowhere.”

The evening before the killing, prosecutors said Bouyeri was visited by two men, identified only as Ismael A. and Jason W., who injured four police officers with a hand grenade during their arrest in November. They are among 12 men who will go on trial in coming months on terrorism charges and plotting to kill prominent Dutch politicians.

Prosecutors said a telephone tap had recorded one of them 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.”

Had previous legal problems
Van Straelen also said Bouyeri had five run-ins with the law since 1997, once having jabbed an officer with a knife before throwing it at him.

** FILE ** Theo van Gogh is shown in this August 2001 filer. Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who had made a film critical of some elements of Islamic culture has been shot dead in Amsterdam, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2004. (AP Photos/ Willem ten Veldhuys/ Dijkstra b.v.)Willem Ten Veldhuys / AP

Outside court, several dozen spectators waited at a security check as a lone demonstrator hung a banner that said, “Stop Islamic terror.”

The murder threw the country into turmoil and resulted in a series of attacks on Islamic schools and mosques. It also led to a crackdown on terrorism suspects with alleged ties to Bouyeri and pushed the government to institute far-reaching anti-terrorism laws.

Police released a copy of what they said was a testament found in Bouyeri’s pocket, indicating he had expected to die as a martyr for his radical cause.

Plasman, his lawyer, has never discussed Bouyeri’s guilt or innocence.

Van Gogh, a distant relative of the artist Vincent van Gogh, had criticized the treatment of women under Islam in a recent film. Lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the script for “Submission,” immediately went into hiding and returned to work last week.

Bouyeri was born to Moroccan parents in Amsterdam and holds Dutch and Moroccan citizenship.

Twelve other men suspected of belonging to the Hofstad terrorist cell will have pretrial hearings next month.