Van Gogh Murderer Sentenced to Life | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.07.2005
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Van Gogh Murderer Sentenced to Life

A Dutch court condemned Mohammed Bouyeri to life in jail on Tuesday. The Islamic radical had admitted to killing filmmaker Theo van Gogh last November, saying he acted out of faith.

Mohammed Bouyeri will spend his remaining days behind bars

Mohammed Bouyeri will spend his remaining days behind bars

The three-judge panel of the Amsterdam high-security court announced the life sentence against Bouyeri for the murder which the prosecution said signaled the end of innocence for the tolerant Netherlands.

To show just how severe the judges believe this reading is, they have order that Bouyeri be present in court as the verdict was read out --something almost unheard of in the Netherlands, where suspects are not obliged to attend the reading of the verdict and it is very rare that a court orders a suspect to attend.

Suspect flouts court's authority

Bouyeri, a 27-year old who holds dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality, has made it clear he does not recognize the authority of the court. During the trial he ordered his attorney not to present a defense.

Filmregisseur Theo van Gogh erschossen

Theo van Gogh was gunned down in broad daylight

The slaying of van Gogh, carried out in broad daylight as he cycled to work, shocked the Netherlands. It stoked ethnic tensions and sparked a wave of reprisal attacks primarily directed at the Muslim community here.

The filmmaker, a distant relative of 19th century painter Vincent van Gogh, was also an outspoken columnist who often criticized Islam and multicultural society. Together with Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, he made a short film called "Submission," linking Islam to the abuse of women and causing outrage in the Dutch Muslim community.

After van Gogh's murder, Hirsi Ali went into hiding for three months because a letter threatening her and other politicians was found on the filmmaker's body.

End of the innocence

"The Netherlands has lost its innocence. Our country has suddenly become a target of international terrorism," prosecutor Frits van Straelen said during the trial.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Dutch member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali had to go underground after van Gogh's murder

Bouyeri was charged with the premeditated murder of Van Gogh, the attempted murder of several police officers and bystanders, illegal possession of firearms, obstructing the work of Hirsi Ali as a member of parliament and threatening her with a terrorist act.

A life sentence carries no possibility of parole in the Netherlands, but convicts can be released after receiving a royal pardon.

Whether Bouyeri would like a pardon from the queen is another matter. In a dramatic final speech to the court at the end of his trial two weeks ago, he said he wanted to receive the maximum punishment and warned that he would do the same again if he were freed.

"I do not want to miss the chance to get the maximum sentence... I can assure you that if I am ever freed, I will do exactly the same," he told the court.

Gewalt in der Niederlande Schule brennt

Violence towards Muslims, here a Muslim school in flames, broke out after van Gogh's murder

Although he gave some insight as to why he killed van Gogh, the Dutch are still struggling to understand how Bouyeri -- who was born and raised in Amsterdam -- turned into radical Islam.

Bouyeri himself refused to comment on his transformation.

"You can set all your psychologists, psychiatrists and experts on me, but I tell you, you will never understand. You can't," he taunted the court.

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