U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 - The Netherlands

The Dutch continued to respond to the global terrorist threat with leadership and energy in the areas of border and shipping security, terrorist financing, and Coalition efforts in Afghanistan. The Netherlands deployed over 1900 troops to Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The Dutch led a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan province, and in November assumed a six-month rotational command in Kandahar of NATO's efforts in southern Afghanistan. For 2004-2006, the Dutch pledged 75 million euros toward the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to support the transition from humanitarian to reconstruction assistance. From December 2005 to May 2006, the Government of the Netherlands commanded OEF's Combined Task Force 150, committing a fast frigate, a submarine, and a support ship to the mission. Dutch troops ended their deployment in Iraq as part of SFIR in March 2005 following two extensions. The Netherlands deployed 14 trainers and security guards in support of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq and pledged 21 million euros for Iraqi reconstruction.

In its October quarterly terrorism threat analysis, the Dutch National Counterterrorism Coordinator (NCTb) maintained the "substantial threat" level, citing significant threats against other European countries, and Western countries in general. The NCTb also highlighted concern about continuing radicalization among young Muslims, particularly through the Internet. The report cited the increasing presence of susceptible teenagers, particularly those of Dutch-Turkish descent, in local Jihad networks as evidence of continuing radicalization, noting that frustration about the position of Muslims in the Netherlands and fury about events in conflict areas appeared to nourish the feeling of "having to do something." The NCTb also highlighted the role of the Internet as a platform for radical Islamic propaganda.

In February, the Dutch government launched a national counterterrorism public information campaign, "The Netherlands against Terrorism." The campaign was designed to make the public aware of government counterterrorism actions and what individuals could do to minimize the risks of an attack. In March a special notification center for radical statements and hate mail became operational via the new cyber crime website. The Dutch hosted the first ever U.S.-Netherlands Cyber-Crime Conference in October. The conference, attended by Attorney General Gonzales and Dutch Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin, included discussions on bilateral counterterrorism investigations and combating internet radicalization.

The Dutch prosecuted two major terrorism cases. In March, the Rotterdam court ruled the Hofstad group a terrorist organization that aimed to incite hatred, violence, and intimidation. Nine of 14 defendants, including Mohammad Bouyeri, the convicted murderer of film director Theo Van Gogh, were found guilty of membership in a criminal organization "with terrorist intent." Two of the nine, Jason Walters (a dual U.S. – Dutch national) and Ismael Akhnikh, were also convicted for attempted murder and violating the Weapons and Ammunition Act for throwing a hand grenade at The Hague police officers in November 2004. They were sentenced to 15 and 13 years, respectively. Noureddin el Fatmi, also charged in the Piranha case (see below), was sentenced to five years. Bouyeri, considered the group's leader, did not receive an additional sentence in the Hofstad case because he already was serving a life term for Van Gogh's murder. This was the first case to be tried under the 2004 Terrorist Crimes Act, which made membership in a terrorist group and conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks criminal offenses.

The second major prosecution concluded in December, when Samir Azzouz and four additional defendants in the "Piranha" trial were found guilty of planning terrorist attacks on politicians and the national intelligence office. Samir Azzouz, the alleged leader of the group, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

In November, the National Crime Squad arrested five men and one woman on suspicion of terrorist recruitment, participating in a terrorist organization, and obtaining false travel documents.

Dutch officials remained committed to active cooperation with the United States in freezing the assets of known terrorist organizations. In March, the Netherlands Finance Ministry hosted an international conference on terrorist financing issues. In April, the Hofstad group and nine convicted members of the group were put on the Dutch Terrorist Sanctions List, freezing all their assets; in June the government decided, on humanitarian grounds, to ease financial sanctions on some members of the group who already served their sentences. The Netherlands sought EU designations of the Hofstad group and Hizballah as terrorist groups.

The Netherlands adopted three new counterterrorism laws that were expected to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of terrorism suspects. The Protected Witness Act permitted the use of intelligence information in criminal proceedings by establishing procedures to allow the examining judge to assess the reliability of intelligence information without exposing the identities of intelligence officers or sharing confidential intelligence information with the public. The provisions went into effect November 1. The "special investigative methods" bill expanded the use of special investigative techniques in terror investigations by lowering the threshold for the use of surveillance, infiltration, undercover purchases, and wiretapping. This allows the police to initiate investigations at a much earlier stage in terrorist planning. The final law forbade the operation in the Netherlands of terrorist organizations on the UN or EU designations lists. (Previously, only the bank accounts of such groups were frozen.) The law also provided for action, including the confiscation and liquidation of the group's Dutch assets, to be taken against foreign organizations, including those not appearing on the UN or EU terror lists, conducting activities or pursuing objectives in the Netherlands deemed contrary to public order. These new laws complemented the 2004 Terrorist Crimes Law and were expected to facilitate the successful investigation and prosecution of terrorist suspects.

The National Police Service's Special Intervention Unit became operational in June. It integrated various special police and defense units engaged in counterterrorism activities.

The government's sectoral terror alert system, which became operational in June 2005, now includes nine economic sectors: Schiphol Airport, the Rotterdam Port, and the petrochemical industry, drinking water, railway, natural gas, electricity, nuclear, municipal and regional transport, and financial sectors. This early-warning system was designed to trigger a clear and rapid response to terrorist threats by both the public and private sectors. It links sector-specific measures to be taken to the latest threat information from the National Counterterrorism Coordinator. There are four alert levels: basic, low, moderate, and high-threat. A total of 14 sectors are anticipated.

On October 11, the Justice Minister approved the extradition to the United States of Wasem Al Delaema, an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen. Al Delaema was charged with conspiring to attack U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003, and was the first person to be charged in U.S. courts for terrorist activities in Iraq. The Supreme Court's September ruling that Al Delaema was eligible for extradition was the first time a Dutch court approved the extradition of a Dutch citizen on terrorism-related charges. Al Delaema filed for an injunction against the Minister's extradition order; his appeal was rejected on December 19, paving the way for his extradition. In September, the Dutch Supreme Court blocked the extradition of alleged female PKK leader Nuriye Kesbir to Turkey, citing concerns over Turkey's human rights practices and insufficient guarantees against torture.


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