Expatica news

AIVD evidence set to convict terrorist suspects

16 April 2004

AMSTERDAM — Confidential information from the Dutch secret service AIVD could soon be used as evidence in court cases against terrorism suspects. The legislative proposal comes after two groups of suspected Islamic terrorists were acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said on Thursday he will submit a legislative proposal to the Cabinet later this month paving the way for anonymous witness testimony in court. Official messages from the AIVD will also be able to serve as evidence.

Speaking in a debate with MPs about the government’s efforts against terrorism, the Christian Democrat CDA minister said he also wanted to expand the powers of intelligence services and police to maintain surveillance of about 150 potential terrorists.

Furthermore, Donner wants to extend the length of time that terrorism suspects can be held on remand and the Cabinet is considering expanding the “conditions of suspicion”, newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported.
The pending legislation could pave the way for authorities to shut down meeting places where acts of terrorism are being planned, including mosques.

The legislative proposal states that the examining judge will be given powers to take anonymous witness testimony from AIVD agents. The witness will be required to state why certain information cannot be reported due to matters of security to the State.

The judiciary will also gain authority to order the examining judge to test official messages from the AIVD for reliability. The legislative proposal means that AIVD messages could be deemed as sufficient evidence.

Donner will submit the legislative proposal to the cabinet this month. It will then be lodged with the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, via an accelerated procedure, bypassing the usual pre-consultation round with the judiciary and lawyers.

Minister Donner said the proposed legislation corresponds to a European jurisdiction that legalises restrictions in the right of the defence in cases where state security is at stake.

But legal experts have warned against allowing the AIVD to become a type of policing organisation instead of its role as an “alarm bell” for possible threats.

Despite this, both the CDA and coalition partner Liberal VVD have demanded a swift change to legislation, while main opposition party Labour PvdA demanded the appointment of specialist judges who only deal with cases involving terrorism, public news service NOS reported.

Two terrorist trials ended in acquittals in December 2002 and June 2003 because AIVD evidence could not be used in court. Despite prosecution appeals in both cases, Donner’s legislation is designed to prevent repeat occurrences.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news