MPs agree to security cutback for former minister

MPs agree to security cutback for former minister

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In an emergency debate in parliament, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said that, if there is no increased threat to former Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk, her security will be further cut back further in the summer. Her level of protection has been reduced, as the threat to her is now less than it was when she was serving as a minister. Mr Hirsch Ballin said the security provision would only be reconsidered if the threat tangibly increases. By Michael Blass

The justice minister emphasised that for more than a year Ms Verdonk has been provided with more protection than necessary, and other MPs in the same situation would receive no security provision at all. 

Promotional tour cancelled
Ms Verdonk disagrees with this assessment and has cancelled a promotional tour for her new political party Trots of Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands) because of concerns about her personal safety. She has submitted a list of security incidents to the Justice Ministry which she claims indicate that she needs a greater level of protection, but according to the minister they have already been taken into consideration in the analysis. National Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Tjibbe 
Joustra says the cancellation is unwarranted.
(Photo right: Ms Rita Verdonk)

A large majority in parliament accepted Mr Hirsch Ballin's explanation. Geert Wilders' right-wing populist Freedom Party called on the minister to reconsider the decision, but received insufficient support from MPs. Mr Wilders is himself under constant security protection due to threats to his life.

TV interview
Some MPs criticised Ms Verdonk because she left the chamber before the debate was over in order to attend a television interview. It was in a television programme on Wednesday that she first drew attention to the reduction in her security. Her party's website is calling for donations to fund her continued protection privately.

Since she became Immigration and Integration Minister in 2003, there have been repeated threats against Ms Verdonk in response to her critical stance on immigrants.
9 June 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]

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