Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014, 13:28 GMT

Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 - The Netherlands

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Publication Date 30 April 2009
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 - The Netherlands, 30 April 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49fac697c.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Dutch continued their response to the global terrorist threat with leadership and energy in the areas of border and transportation security, terrorist financing, bilateral counterterrorism cooperation, and Coalition efforts in Afghanistan. The Netherlands continued operations with 1,650 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The Dutch led a Provincial Reconstruction team in Uruzgan province, took command in Kandahar of NATO's efforts in southern Afghanistan for a year beginning in November, and contributed approximately USD 100 million in development aid for Afghanistan. The Netherlands deployed eight trainers in support of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, two officials for the EU rule of law mission in Iraq, contributed USD 15 million for Iraqi programs, and made the final commercial debt relief forgiveness of USD 72 million.

In a March quarterly terrorism threat analysis, the Dutch National Counterterrorism Coordinator (NCTb) raised the domestic threat level from "limited", where it had been since April 2007 to "substantial," meaning there was a real chance of an attack in the Netherlands. (The Netherlands has four threat levels: minimum, limited, substantial and critical.) The level was raised primarily because of the Netherlands' high international profile and increased activities of terrorist groups like al-Qa'ida. In the September threat assessment, the NCTb cited Dutch MP Geert Wilders' controversial film Fitna, and the increasing number of reports about Western extremists at training camps along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border as the rationale for maintaining the level at "substantial." The NCTb noted that the Netherlands was specifically mentioned on international terrorists' websites. According to the September assessment, little activity was observed within local autonomous networks in the Netherlands, though some militants expressed a desire to join the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The NCTb also cited growing resistance among the Muslim community in the Netherlands to radicalization noting that extremists also became more wary about expressing radical views because resulting negative publicity might undermine their "cause." The NCTb concluded that the government's integration efforts, including educating imams in the Dutch language and culture, are proving effective. According to the 2008 Trend Analysis on Polarization and Radicalization, which Interior Minister Ter Horst submitted to Parliament in December, the Netherlands has 2,500 to 3,000 potential radicals.

According to a November NCTb poll, the Dutch population worried more about the economy than about terrorism. Only 13 percent of people queried feared a terrorist attack while 85 percent did not. The NCTb attributed this to the absence of concrete threats and attacks in the Netherlands. The poll also showed that the number of Dutch worried about radicalization dropped from 21 percent in 2007 to eight percent in 2008.

The Justice Ministry's Netherlands against Terrorism campaign continued, with a particular focus on prevention of radicalization. The government's terrorist alert system, which became operational in June 2005, now includes 14 economic sectors: the financial sector, seaports, airports, drinking water, railway, natural gas, oil, electricity, nuclear, chemical, municipal and regional transport, hotels, public events, and tunnels and flood defense systems. In March, the Dutch tested the alert system for the nuclear sector. In August, the National Forensic Investigation Team staged an international exercise for forensic experts to improve international cooperation in terrorist attacks. In November, Dutch security services published a brochure warning traveling businessmen, civil servants, politicians, and other people having access to certain military, technological, or economic data, that they could be targets of espionage.

According to an October Justice Ministry progress report on the border control action plan, major steps have been taken to improve security along external borders and at Schiphol airport to counter terrorist activities, including intensified cooperation between the border police, the port police, and the customs service. In February, Schiphol closed three staff access passages and introduced 100 percent physical controls of personnel and carry-on goods.

There were two major terrorism-related appeal cases this year. In January, the appeals court in The Hague acquitted the seven members of the Hofstad terrorist group of participating in a criminal and terrorist organization, because "there was no question of a lasting and structured form of cooperation, nor of a commonly shared ideology." The appeals court upheld only the conviction of Jason Walters (a dual U.S.-Dutch national), sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for having thrown a hand grenade at police officers in November 2004, and for possession of hand grenades. However, the court did not consider the throwing of a hand grenade a terrorist act. The sentence of Walters' accomplice, Ismael Aknikh, was reduced to a 15-month prison term (from 13 years) for possession of hand grenades. In February, the public prosecutor's office in The Hague filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

In April, six members of the Hofstad group were removed from the EU terrorist list. The Hofstad group itself, as well as "important" members of the group, remained on the list.

In December 2006, the Rotterdam district court convicted four members of the "Piranha" terrorist group of participating in a terrorist organization. One defendant was acquitted and the sentences handed down were much shorter than prosecutors had sought. The public prosecutor therefore appealed the cases and sentences to the appeals court in The Hague, and in October 2008, the four guilty verdicts were upheld and longer prison sentences were imposed. A fifth defendant originally acquitted was convicted. All of the "Piranha" terrorist group defendants were found guilty of "participating in an organization with terrorist intent." The appeals court ruled that there was sufficient evidence the group had planned to attack Dutch politicians and a building of the general intelligence service (AIVD). The court sentenced Samir Azzouz to nine years' imprisonment, Nouredine El Fatmi to eight years, Mohammed Chentouf to six and a half years, El Fatmi's former wife Soumaya Sahla to four years, and Mohammed Hamdi received three months. Defense attorneys appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.

In March, the Rotterdam court sentenced two former associates of Azzouz to three years' imprisonment for participating in a terrorist organization, preparing attacks and possessing dangerous firearms. The two had testified against Azzouz and his co-defendants and were subsequently tried separately on similar charges in the "Piranha II" case. Defense attorneys have appealed the verdict.

In May, the public prosecutor's office in Rotterdam dropped charges against three Rotterdam terrorist suspects arrested in late 2007 for lack of evidence that they were planning a terrorist attack. In October, the Maastricht district court threw out the public prosecutor's case against 16 alleged Kurdistan Workers' Party fighters arrested in late 2004 on charges of participating in a criminal organization with terrorist intent. The case was dismissed because the Turkish Justice Minister rejected a legal assistance request allowing Dutch attorneys to hear witnesses in Turkey. The court ruled that, as a result of this rejection, there could not be a fair trial. In April, the Netherlands extradited a Pakistani terrorist suspect to Spain. The man, who was arrested in March, is believed to be a member of a terrorist organization that was planning attacks on Spain and other European countries. In November, the National Crime Squad arrested a man in The Hague who may have been involved in preparing terrorist attacks. Following the arrest of a Dutch woman in the UK in October, on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities, the AIVD put the woman's two brothers on the watch list.

The Dutch government remained committed to active cooperation with the United States in designating known terrorist organizations, and interdicting and freezing their assets, and supported the continued exchange of information on financial transactions. Dutch officials continued to play a constructive role within the Financial Action Task force to combat terrorist financing. In August, the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act became effective. The Act incorporated the EU's third Money Laundering Directive into Dutch national law. The Dutch government worked with the United States to emphasize the importance of balancing security and the effectiveness of the financial system.

No new counterterrorism laws were adopted in 2008. A bill making participation and cooperation in a terrorist training camp a serious punishable offense, even if the training takes place outside the Netherlands, was awaiting action by the lower house of Parliament at year's end. The Bill on Administrative National Security Measures, which allows the Interior Minister to issue restraining orders to prohibit a terrorist suspect's physical proximity to specific locations or persons, was still awaiting action by the upper house of Parliament at year's end.

In July, the government set up a committee, which is to provide the Cabinet with recommendations concerning issues warranting special attention, for example, the compatibility and consistency of various antiterrorism laws, and the identification of remaining gaps in the Dutch counterterrorism legal regime. The committee's recommendations should contribute to the ongoing assessment of counterterrorism legislation.

In May, the Netherlands and the United States signed a joint statement enabling the start of the International Expedited Traveler Initiative between Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and JFK in New York. In July, the Dutch Parliament ratified the U.S.-EU Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance treaties. In November, the Dutch National Police hosted a bilateral "experts meeting" on terrorism with FBI officials, fulfilling one of the action items agreed at the 2007 U.S.-Dutch bilateral law enforcement "Next Steps" consultations.

As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the Netherlands continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.

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