Dead bag thief's family abandons silent march

21st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 January 2005, AMSTERDAM — The family of dead bag snatcher Ali el B. has agreed to call off a silent march on Friday after discussions with Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen, who said it would be a "bad signal" if the young man was commemorated in that manner.

21 January 2005

AMSTERDAM — The family of dead bag snatcher Ali el B. has agreed to call off a silent march on Friday after discussions with Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen, who said it would be a "bad signal" if the young man was commemorated in that manner.

"The family and friends of the victim must realise that this started with the theft of a bag. He was not a nice lad, far from it, and this must not be trivialised," he said.

El B. was killed on Monday night when a 43-year-old woman reversed her car into him after he and an 18-year-old accomplice had stolen her bag from her vehicle in the east of Amsterdam. El B. was crushed up against a tree as the two culprits tried to escape on a moped.

The public prosecutor has accused the mother-of-two of manslaughter.

Mayor Cohen met with El B.'s sister on Thursday to discuss the planned silent march — which are usually held to honour murder victims — and he immediately made it clear that he was opposed to such a commemoration in this case.

El B. had appeared in court on Monday shortly before his death. In that case, El B. was accused of an armed robbery at a Xenos store in the Kalverstraat in the city centre on 11 May 2004. Due to the circumstances, Amsterdam Court has decided to bring its ruling forward from the initially planned date of 31 January. It will now hand down its ruling at 2pm on Friday, news service NOS reported.

In consultation with Cohen, El B.'s family has called off the march from Central Station to the Derde Oosterparkstraat where the 19-year-old was killed, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

Family and friends of El B. will instead hold a shorter procession from the scene of his death to Al Kabir mosque, a short distance away on the Weesperzijde. Police and council officers will be on duty to maintain law and order, as is usual during demonstrations or silent marches, a council spokeswoman said.

Cohen is moving to thwart renewed tensions between the Moroccan, native Dutch and other ethnic groups in the capital. "Therefore it is important that all the facts get through to everyone. But they [the facts] appear to have become muddled and instead all sorts of contradictions have come out. It is now up to the public prosecutor to investigate everything," he said.

A council spokeswoman told Expatica that Amsterdam authorities were not concerned that Cohen's stance and "strong" description of El B. would provoke greater tension. She said the mayor was simply looking at the facts of the incident, which had two sides, namely a bag theft and a death. 

The prosecutor had initially suspected the motorist, 43-year-old Germaine C, of manslaughter, claiming she took an "unacceptable risk" in the manner that she reversed her car.

But a judge in Amsterdam ordered her release from custody on Thursday night, ruling there was no indication the woman intended to kill El B. The court said it cannot be proven that she consciously accepted the risk that the two men could be killed by her actions.

The prosecutor has indicated an appeal will not be lodged against the decision to free her, but the investigation continues.

But speaking through her lawyer, C. has already said she did not mean to hit El B. and has expressed sorrow at his death. She claims she had reversed her car to tell the bag snatchers that there was nothing of value in it.

Meanwhile, El B.'s 18-year-old accomplice — who escaped the scene on Monday, but reported to police on Wednesday night — has reportedly confessed his role in the theft. He will appear in court later on Friday.

Two male youths aged 15 and 16 arrested shortly after the incident have been cleared of any involvement in Monday night's theft. One of them was the owner of the scooter and the other had the scooter registered in his name. One of the two has been released, but the other is still being remanded on suspicion he was involved in another theft.

Instead of the planned 2pm silent march, El B.'s family and friends will now gather in the Derde Oosterparkstraat for a procession to the Al Kabir mosque. A note affixed to the tree where El B. died urges residents to attend the commemoration. The note is addressed to the "brothers and sisters of Islam".

Feelings are running high in Amsterdam East, with Moroccan residents claiming El B. was murdered. But the native Dutch community generally feels the death was an accident. One woman told RTL News on Friday morning that a silent march would turn El B.'s death into something it wasn't, while one man said his death was purely an accident.

The scene of El B.'s death is just 50m away from where filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered last November. His suspected killer is a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan and the latest incident has only served to sharpen the simmering tension between the native Dutch and Moroccan communities.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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