Trial of alleged terrorist group opens in Amsterdam

5th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 December 2005, AMSTERDAM — A key prosecution witness refused to testify when called to give evidence on the first day of the trial of the alleged Hofstadgroep.

5 December 2005

AMSTERDAM — A key prosecution witness refused to testify when called to give evidence on the first day of the trial of the alleged Hofstadgroep.

Malika, the 17-year-old ex-wife of one of the 14 accused men, refused even to answer any questions about herself. The court released her as a witness.

The trial of the 14 terrorist suspects began in the high-security Amsterdam-Osdorp courthouse on Monday morning.

Prosecutors claim that the group - dubbed the Hofstadgroep by the security service - was centred on Mohammed B., the man jailed in July for the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Malika has been held in isolation by the authorities since last week because she refused to stand by an earlier statement she made.

Prosecutors wanted her to testify about her links to two of the accused men, and Nouriddin El F. in particular. He was allegedly in possession of a machine pistol when he was arrested in June this year.

El F. and Malika were married according to Islamic custom by Mohammed B. in the autumn of 2004.

The court repeated put parts of Malika's statement to her on Monday but she refused to respond. She had allegedly told the police that El F. had demonstrated how one should cut a person's throat and had talked about driving a car full of explosives into a shopping centre.

She further claimed to the police, according to the statement she refused to confirm, that El F. told her Van Gogh and MPS Ayaan Hirsi Ali had to die. The members of the Hofstadgroep never talked about concrete murder plans, she allegedly told the police.

Last month a letter was delivered to Malika "warning" her to withdraw her testimony. The missive, the writer said, was not intended as a treat, but Malika should fear Allah on Judgement Day. "May Allah lead you or else break your back," said the letter which was read out by the presiding judge.

All 14 suspects were summoned to appear at the hearing on Monday and Tuesday, but B. indicated he would not leave his jail cell and come to the court for the preliminary stages.

The court will deal with the individual cases against each accused person from Thursday, starting with B. It is unclear if he will attend court for this. The judges have the power to compel his attendance.

As B. is already serving life imprisonment for killing Van Gogh, he cannot receive an additional sentence.

Prosecutors argue that is vital B. be brought to the court as his presence can contribute to establishing the truth. It will also be an opportunity for B. to publicly account for his role in the group.

The authorities launched a major operation to round up B.'s 'kindred spirits' after the murder of Van Gogh. The majority of the suspects before the court are from a Moroccan background and live in Amsterdam. They range in age from 18 to 28.

Prosecutors claim they developed radical convictions by attending meetings in which religious sermons in support of violence were discussed and exchanged.

Defence lawyers will argue that the men's views cannot be judged solely on the basis of "boxes of ideas".

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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