Dutch to rally forfreedom of expression

2nd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

2 November 2004, AMSTERDAM — A large turnout is expected for the special gathering on Dam Square in central Amsterdam on Tuesday evening to support the right to freedom of expression.

2 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — A large turnout is expected for the special gathering on Dam Square in central Amsterdam on Tuesday evening to support the right to freedom of expression.

Mayor Job Cohen announced the unusual demonstration following the murder of controversial film director and columnist Theo van Gogh earlier in the morning.

Cohen said nobody had the right to stifle another person's opinions in the Netherlands and the people of Amsterdam would make this point "loud and clear" at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

He said he was "angered, horrified and shocked" by the apparent assassination.

Normally tragic events are marked by "silent marches", but Cohen said this would not be the case on Tuesday as "that would conflict with Van Gogh's character". It is expected the event on the Dam will feature speeches.

The public has been asked to bring candles and to make a racket in defence of the freedom of expression. The Mayor emphasised that Muslim groups have also been invited to attend the rally.

Cohen said Van Gogh was scheduled to be one of the celebrities attending the President's Night in connection with the US election count in the Melkweg concert venue. This event will go ahead on Tuesday night and the organisers are helping with the rally.

Political figures in the Netherlands also condemned the killing of the outspoken Van Gogh.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and the leader of the Labour Party PvdA, Wouter Bos, stressed that the motive for the killing and the identity of the suspect had yet to be established.

Balkenende called on the public not to jump to conclusions despite an eyewitness report that the man who shot and stabbed Van Gogh in eastern Amsterdam was wearing clothing associated with Muslims.

A woman who saw the killing said the gunman was wearing a Jelabah, a traditional garment worn by some Muslim men. She said he also had a dark beard. She said if he wasn't a Muslim, he had made every effort to appear as one.

Later the man arrested was described as a person with both the Moroccan and Dutch nationalities.

Balkenende and a series of other senior politicians said it would be terrible if Van Gogh was killed for availing of his right to freedom of expression.

His comments were echoed by the leader of the Democrat D66, Boris Ditrich, and Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner.

Liberal VVD parliamentary party leader Jozias van Aartsen also said there was an extreme hardening of the climate in the Netherlands and it was unacceptable that a person could be killed for his beliefs.

"If we can't speak freely anymore that is terrible for democracy," he said.

PvdA leader Bos said his first reaction on hearing the news of the killing was to have a flashback to the murder of populist politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002.

Saying there was no clear evidence yet about the perpetrator, Bos said he was angry someone would kill to stop another exercising his freedom of expression. He condemned the idea a person with outspoken views could not carry on working without bodyguards.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + Theo van Gogh

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