Secret service link to film-maker's killing

A group linked to the suspected killer of the film-maker and critic of Islam Theo van Gogh had a mole inside the Dutch secret services, a court in Rotterdam heard yesterday.

A group linked to the suspected killer of the film-maker and critic of Islam Theo van Gogh had a mole inside the Dutch secret services, a court in Rotterdam heard yesterday.

The trial of a Moroccan-born translator raised new questions about the reach of the networks connected to the suspected murderer of Mr Van Gogh, a descendant of the 19th century painter, who was shot and stabbed as he cycled in Amsterdam. His killing in November last year shocked the Netherlands, sparking a surge of sectarian violence, with arson attacks on mosques, churches and religious schools.

At yesterday's court hearing, the prosecution accused Outman Ben Amar, an employee of the Dutch secret intelligence agency - the AIVD - of passing a copy of a monitored conversation to a group associated with Mohammed B, a Dutch Moroccan who is the chief suspect in Mr Van Gogh's murder.

Mr Ben Amar, 34, who was arrested on 30 September, is charged with disclosing secrets to third parties.

Annemieke Zwaneveld, for the prosecution, said Mr Ben Amar was also suspected of passing a list of AIVD investigations to a group in the city of Utrecht whose members were arrested on suspicion of possessing explosives. A DNA test indicated that Mr Ben Amar could have touched an envelope containing the information, the prosecution said.

Police also found copies of e-mails sent on his computer that revealed the inner workings of the Dutch secret service, she added. However there has been no suggestion that his actions played a direct role in the murder of Mr Van Gogh.

The accused man is being held under tight security and much of yesterday's hearing was taken up with a debate on his prison conditions. "He can only get fresh air for one hour per day and even then he's being held in a big cage," one of his lawyers said.

The prosecution countered that, despite the restrictions, Mr Ben Amar had been able to smuggle a letter out of the prison.

The head of AIVD, Sybrand van Hulst, has said the agency will continue to seek recruits from Islamist circles and that security checks and internal controls would limit the risk of mistakes in hiring.

* Reports in the Netherlands yesterday showed that nearly 25 per cent more illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers left the country voluntarily in 2004 than in the previous year under new policies designed to increase repatriations.

Angolans, Serbians and Montenegrins were most inclined to return home, while the number of Afghans leaving doubled. Under the scheme, illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers are given information about repatriation and help with travel papers and departure. Immigrants who cooperate receive financial help with the move.

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