Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Theo Van Gogh

Bouyeri Sentenced
— New Chapter

By Rachael Bell

Mohammed Bouyeri
Mohammed Bouyeri

On July 26, 2005, a three judge panel in an Amsterdam court found Mohammed Bouyeri guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of several police officers and two civilians wounded in the shootout and the illegal possession of firearms. Furthermore, Bouyeri was found guilty of encumbering MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali's work in the Dutch parliament because of threats made to her life, which led to her temporary absence from work and seclusion from the public for security reasons.

During sentencing presiding judge Udo Willem Bentinck said: "The terrorist attack on Theo van Gogh has unleashed feelings of great fear and insecurity in society" and that "there is only one fitting punishment in this case and that is a life sentence," Philippe Naughton reported in the Times Online. The sentence was the most severe possible under Dutch law for premeditated murder. The remorseless Bouyeri showed no emotion as the verdict was read, although there was relief expressed by some of Van Gogh's family and relatives.

According to BBC News, Bouyeri must face new charges of being a member of an Islamist terror network. Dutch prosecutors say Bouyeri is "a key member of the Hofstad group which was planning attacks against Dutch politicians."   He would now be tried along with other alleged Hofstad members. Twelve other cases of suspected members of the Hofstad Network are currently being reviewed and are expected to go to trial in the near future. "Though they were not accused of having links to Van Gogh's murder, prosecutors say they were plotting other terrorist attacks," BBC reported.

Theo van Gogh
Theo van Gogh

In the meantime, a "large majority of Dutch parliament" is trying to make sure that while in jail, Bouyeri is kept in isolation in order to prevent him from becoming a 'prison prophet,' by recruiting other prisoners as jihad fighters," Expatica.com said. During his imprisonment while awaiting trial, evidence including radical Islamic texts came to light, which Bouyeri allegedly used to try and indoctrinate two other prisoners. Contact with prison inmates has since been significantly reduced. Moreover, he has been prohibited from using the Internet or his mobile (cell) phone while incarcerated.

However, it is unclear whether such restrictions will be enforced throughout the duration of his sentence. The NIS (Netherlands Information Services) reported that convicted criminals have the right to "write, publish and distribute articles" but if the "texts infringe criminal law, for example when they incite hatred or sedition, the author can be prosecuted." Yet, there is a chance that Bouyeri's indoctrination of the two prisoners might not be taken into account since they occurred prior to sentencing. Thus, he could start his prison sentence off with a 'clean slate" free again to spread messages inciting hate until he is caught. Even if he is caught the NIS said that "no further sentence can be imposed on him for any future criminal offence" according to Dutch law. Consequently, steps are being taken to change current laws in an effort to prevent Islamic extremists from recruiting while in prison. This is especially important now that it has come to light that one of the 7/21 bombers in London embraced a violent Islamic creed while in jail serving a 5-year sentence for mugging.  

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