Minister under fire for 'non-existent letter'
19 July 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Dutch Interior Minister Johan Remkes is under fire for publicly suggesting a threatening letter purportedly from terror network al-Qaeda was allegedly mailed to the United Nations in New York.
19 July 2004
AMSTERDAM — Dutch Interior Minister Johan Remkes is under fire for publicly suggesting a threatening letter purportedly from terror network al-Qaeda was allegedly mailed to the United Nations in New York.
The letter — which supposedly warned of terrorist attacks in Brussels and The Hague — does not appear to exist, despite the fact that Minister Remkes said last week a letter was being examined by the Dutch secret service AIVD.
An Interior Ministry spokesman has told television current affairs programme NOVA and daily newspaper De Volkskrant that a mistake was made. He said the matter was still being investigated when Remkes went public about the letter.
An anonymous source within one of the investigation services has told newspaper De Volkskrant that Remkes acted extremely poorly. He said it is incomprehensible that the minister made a statement despite the fact the matter had not been fully investigated.
Remkes said last week that the AIVD was investigating the letter. Several hours later, the investigation came to the conclusion that the letter was not a serious threat. But it has since been reported that the letter does not even exist.
The Interior Ministry is now claiming there was a misunderstanding. A spokesman told news agency ANP on Monday that there was a rumour among journalists about the letter and that the rumour was subsequently investigated. It was then proven that the letter did not exist, he said.
The spokesman also said Remkes' statement referred to the investigation into the rumour. A letter explaining the situation will now be presented to the Parliament later on Monday.
The incident is noteworthy given the fact that since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, the fight against terrorism has been top priority, Dutch public news service NOS has reported.
Moreover, the Netherlands has held the rotating European Union Presidency since 1 July and the EU appointed in March a Dutchman, Gijs de Vries, as the new European anti-terrorism co-ordinator.
Socialist Party MP Harry van Bommel has demanded answers from Remkes about the "phantom letter". If the minister fails to give an adequate response, he wants to recall the Parliament from its summer recess.
The Christian Democrat CDA and the Liberal VVD are also demanding a clarification from VVD Minister Remkes, but both parties are not yet in favour of recalling Parliament.
It was reported on 15 July that a letter, allegedly from al-Qaeda, had been sent to the UN headquarters in New York warning that European organisations in The Hague and Brussels were potential targets for terror attacks.
The announcement came after the Dutch government issued a terror alert on 9 July, leading to heightened security at government and other buildings, train stations and infrastructure points.
The Dutch secret service AIVD has indications that Islamic extremists are possibly preparing terrorist attacks against the west of the Netherlands or "soft targets" where large crowds gather.
Minister Remkes said on Saturday the alert has not been rescinded and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has cautioned the public to be watchful for suspicious activity.
Two arrests carried out on Saturday allegedly thwarted a potential violent attack against Dutch or foreign soldiers participating in the Nijmegen Four Day March, scheduled to start on Tuesday.
According to media reports one of the two suspects was shopping with his wife at the time of his arrest. Police removed several items from his home, but no weapons or explosives were fond.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news