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The 'Hofstadgroup' Terror Trial By: Emerson Vermaat
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 10, 2006


It was early September 2004 when a Dutch Moroccan named Ahmed Hamdi moved to the small two-room house of Mohammed Bouyeri, a fellow Dutch Moroccan. Only two months later, on  November 2, 2004, the same Bouyeri would kill Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh.

Since December 2002, a group of ten to twenty young radical Muslims were meeting in Bouyeri’s house twice a week to watch films on ritual decapitations in Iraq and Chechnya, to praise al-Qaeda’s “heroic struggle” and to listen to vitriolic speeches on the obligation of every Muslim to kill the infidels.

 

The Dutch Security and Intelligence Service (AIVD) referred to them as the “Hofstadgroup.” By September 2004, Bouyeri’s process of gradual radicalization which began after September 11, 2001, had reached its final stage: he was now willing to kill anyone who insulted Islam or the prophet Mohammed.

 

This, in his view, was exactly what Theo van Gogh had done in his latest film “Submission,” which aired on television at the end of August 2004. He was showing Koranic texts on the supression of women, written on a half-naked female body. The original idea to make such a film had come from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim from Somalia and now an atheist and a member of the Dutch parliament for the liberal party VVD. Early October, Bouyeri had his own gun and he began to practice shooting.

 

With this same gun, he would kill Theo van Gogh. Yet at the major trial of fourteen Hofstadgroup members in Amsterdam, Bouyeri’s friend and housemate Ahmed Hamdi claimed he had seen and heard nothing. “Did you never notice during those meetings in Bouyeri’s house that people were called upon to participate in the violent struggle?’ the judge asked Hamdi. “No,” Hamdi lied. “You never heard somebody say: “You must hate the infidels?” another judge asked.  “No, or I may not have noticed it,” Hamdi said. He claimed he was not interested in such things. “They never discussed topics like terrorist attacks or joining the jihad with me,” he said. “My contacts with them were just limited to sociable chatting, just enjoying the company of others, that was it basically,” Hamdi claimed in court.

 

And of course, he never ever noticed that his close friend Mohammed Bouyeri was up to something evil. “He never disclosed anything to me,” he said.  “We talked about Islam in general, Bouyeri never mentioned Theo van Gogh or Ayaan Hirsi Ali” (another important target of the Hofstadgroup). Prosecutor Koos Plooy could not believe this. “When I asked Mohammed Bouyeri about his beliefs, he immediately referred to the obligation to decapitate the infidel.” Hamdi’s lame excuse was: “He kept such things secret to me, maybe he did not trust me.” “He didn’t keep it secret at all,” Plooy said. “His writings were published on the Internet. ‘Those who insult the prophet must be killed,’ he wrote. He was also writing open letters, translating radical texts, it’s highly unlikely he never talked about such things.”

 

Hamdi’s former wife Najaf told the police that she had been the victim of domestic violence. She had been threatened and beaten by Ahmed, who had another girlfriend. The frequent quarrels with his wife were the reason he left her and moved into Bouyeri’s house. Najaf also said Hamdi belonged to a “brotherhood.” She told the police her husband began to change after befriending a radical Muslim in his workplace. She referred to Ismail Akhnikh, a key member of the Hofstadgroup who would later visit a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

 

Hamdi’s new girlfriend also noticed strange things in his life. She claimed Hamdi was a “Taqfiri.” Taqfiris believe you are allowed to kill infidels and “apostate Muslims,” and take their property. Yu are allowed to lie and steal – you can simply do anything you want to realize the creation of an Islamic State. In court, Hamdi said: “I don’t know what she means by this. I don’t see myself as a Taqfiri, I am just an ordinary Muslim.”

 

But his computer tells another story. The most radical documents on “Taqfir” and “jihad” were discovered. Hamdi claimed that the computer did not belong to him. It belonged to an old man whose identity he refused to disclose. This man, Hamdi said, had asked him to find out why the computer was not functioning properly. “If the computer belonged to an old man,” prosecutor Plooy asked, “why did we then discover photos of yourself and some of your friends in that same computer?”

 

There were also documents from the AIVD (Dutch Intelligence and Security Service) in the computer. (These documents were leaked by Outman Ben Amer, a Dutch Moroccan who was employed by the AIVD as an interpreter and who was later arrested and tried for leaking secret documents to radical Muslims.)

 

“In fact,” Plooy continued, “many of the documents in your computer, can also be found in the computers of your friends.” Again, Hamdi’s response was a variety of lame excuses. He could not explain why there were so many films on the jihad, the killing of innocent hostages and decapitations in his computer. He was only interested in films about nature and Islam, he said. All the other stuff basically belonged to others, and yes, he did watch these horror pictures sometimes – out of curiosity, of course and nothing else. He would never think of distributing anything related to jihad or radical Islam.

 

This is not what Sara Pastoors told the police and the investigating judge, however. She mentioned meetings in private homes where Hamdi did play an active role and talked about the meaning of “Taqfir.” “He also sent me documents and books,” Pastoors said during her interrogation. And she surely was not referring to books about the beauties of nature or Islam in general.

 

Prosecutor Plooy quoted from a tapped telephone conversation between Hamdi and his friend Jason Walters, another prominent member of the Hofstadgroup currently on trial in Amsterdam. “Did you send those books to her?” Walters asked Hamdi. In court,  Hamdi suddenly did not remember anything.

 

Ahmed Hamdi was the Hofstadgroup’s computer expert. If someone had a technical problem with a computer, he went to Hamdi, who quickly solved the problem. He was also an assistant web master of the jihadist MSN-group “Mujahideen. The True Muslim.”  In court, however, Hamdi claimed he did not play an active role in the MSN-group. The prosecution and the police believe that Hamdi was in fact the man who decided who was allowed to join this extremely radical MSN-group. They also believe he played a key role in distributing radical texts and documents to other Hofstadgroup members. According to at least one witness, his laptop was sometimes used in the house of Mohammed Bouyeri when films of decapitations in Iraq were shown to other group members. Hamdi, of course, denies it.

 

Hamdi’s lawyer Victor Koppe asked the court to release Hamdi. There was no evidence that his client had done anything illegal. The court did not think so, however. Lying in court is not appreciated by judges – and the court had no doubt that Hamdi lied, not once, but many times. He played a much more active role in the Hofstadgroup than he pretended. Indeed, he belonged to the group’s inner core.

 

The president of the court does not like Hamdi’s attorney Victor Koppe either, so it seems at least. Koppe once threatened to challenge the court president over security measures. Such a display of arrogance in the courtroom is not at all appreciated by judges. Koppe belongs to a group of Amsterdam based “political lawyers” who happen to have very good relations with selected members of the press. These lawyers have a special preference for defending terrorism suspects and leftwing fringe groups. They believe that intelligence and security agencies should be abolished as quickly as possible.

 

It all originated with the famous Dutch lawyer P.H. Bakker Schut, who sympathized with the notorious German terrorist Baader-Meinhof gang, a Marxist group from the 1970s and 80s, which was seeking the violent overthrow of the German state. Bakker Schut’s adept Ties Prakken specialized in leftist fringe groups and anarchists, and her successor was a blond female lawyer from Germany named Britta Böhler. She happened to be a great admirer of Abdullah Öcalan, a Turk-Kurdish macho with a preference for blond European women and the leader of the PKK, an extremely violent Kurdish terrorist network which specialized in liquidating opponents. In Ocalan’s terrorist camps, there were a few German women who previously belonged to, or sympathized with the Baader-Meinhof gang.

 

When Turkey finally captured Ocalan, Britta Böhler simply announced she was his lawyer. Just before Ocalan was captured, Böhler tried to arrange his flight to the Netherlands, but the Dutch authorities did not give Ocalan’s plane permission to land – for reasons of State security. Böhler was upset, claiming that Ocalan’s “right to asylum” had been ignored. It so happens that Böhler and her associates played a legal role – as attorneys –  in virtually every major terrorism court case in the Netherlands.

 

In a TV interview on December 24, 2005, Böhler suggested that the judges in the Hofstadgroup Trial in Amsterdam were biased against Islam. She claimed “they hardly ever ask questions about plans the suspects may have had to do something, they never ask if the suspects cooperated with others or talked about weapons.”  “This trial reminds me of the Inquisition,” she said. Another obvious misrepresentation of the truth, this time by a lawyer who should have known better. I myself heard the judges pose inquisitive questions about weapons and plans to conspire with others to perform acts of terrorism. In some cases they had to ask these questions not once, but repeatedly as lawyers had advised terror suspects either to remain silent or to evade answering clear-cut questions by the judges or the prosecution.

 

Indeed, “see no evil, hear no evil” was the exclusive tactic followed by Ahmed Hamdi and his ilk. And what Böhler and her friends are doing is putting pressure on the court. Both in and outside the courtroom, they repeatedly suggested that judges should not yield to “public pressure” by condemning  terrorist suspects. When these lawyers do not like a court verdict or when they expect a terrorism suspect to be condemned by the court, or when a judge questions the suspect about his views and attitutes – and judges have every right to do so – they simply lay the blame on the “biased” judges themselves. Call it what you may, to many such an argument comes perilously close to contempt of court.

 

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Emerson Vermaat, a law graduate, is an investigative reporter specialized in terrorism and organized crime and author of a Dutch book on the Hofstadgroup. He is covering the Hofstad Trial in Amsterdam. His website is: emersonvermaat.com.


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