Man accused of Van Gogh killing refuses to recognise Dutch court

Mohammed Bouyeri, who was born in Amsterdam to Moroccan parents, faces life in jail if convicted of the murder of the film-maker Theo van Gogh, who was shot six times as he cycled to work in Amsterdam, and had his throat cut.

Mr van Gogh, a descendant of the 19th-century painter, was a prominent critic of Islamic fundamentalism and his 10-minute film Submission portrayed abuse of women in Muslim communities. The killer left a five-page note, fixed to the corpse with a knife, threatening one of Mr Van Gogh's collaborators, the Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was forced into hiding.

The attack sent shock waves through Dutch society, provoking an outpouring of grief and straining the country's reputation for tolerance. In the aftermath of the murder in November last year there were attacks on mosques and other Muslim targets.

Yesterday, in a high-security court, Mr Bouyeri confirmed his identity before his lawyer, Peter Plasman, said his client did not recognise the court's authority and would not mount a defence. Mr Plasman added: "My client wants no defence by him, nor on his behalf, and that's a very thoroughly considered decision. This is probably the last thing I'll be saying at this trial."

Mr Bouyeri, in a flowing tan robe and a black and white checked headscarf, listened carefully to the proceedings, stroking his beard, but avoiding eye contact with the victim's mother and sister. Prompted repeatedly by judges to address the court, the accused replied only: "I have nothing to add."

On the witness stand, Mr van Gogh's sister Josien said: "The brutal murder left a gaping hole in our family, a hole that will never be filled. I hope that [Bouyeri] gets the heaviest possible punishment. But in November, we were already given a life sentence."

The victim's mother, Anneke, said the "impact this event had will stay in the hearts and minds of people for a long time".

Mr Bouyeri faces a total of six charges, including murder and attempted murder of two passers-by who were hit by bullets.

He is also accused of firing at police officers at the attack scene.

The murder has also raised questions about intelligence failings because the Dutch security services admitted that they had kept Mr Bouyeri under surveillance since 2002. Last week, in an interview with the Trouw newspaper, Josien van Gogh, said of the security service, the AIVD: "If they had been more alert, he might still be alive."

Twelve men accused of belonging of belonging, like Mr Bouyeri, to a radical Islamic group codenamed the Hofstad Network, are awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

More than 50 terrorism suspects have been arrested in the Netherlands since the 9/11 attacks although most of those brought to trial have been acquitted. Mr Bouyeri has spent several months under psychiatric observation and has refused to co-operate with prosecutors.

The prosecutor, Frits van Straelen, told a pre-trial hearing that he would present forensic evidence including clothes, a bag, the murder weapon and ammunition. Mr van Straelen also intends to present pictures found at Mr Bouyeri's home which show executions, beheadings, hangings, throat-cuttings, amputations and deaths by stoning.

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