Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - The Netherlands

The Dutch responded 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 deployed over 1700 troops to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Dutch led a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan province, headed the rotational command in Kandahar of NATO's efforts in southern Afghanistan for six months (ending in May), and provided in extremis support for Iraq. The Netherlands deployed as many as 14 trainers and security guards in support of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, and pledged approximately 40 million USD for Iraqi reconstruction.

In an April quarterly terrorism threat analysis, the Dutch National Counterterrorism Coordinator (NCTb) lowered the threat level from "substantial," where it had been since the government began producing the quarterly assessments in 2005, to "limited." The second lowest of the four levels, "limited" means that the identified threat from individuals or networks is relatively slight, but cannot be ruled out entirely. In the October threat assessment, the NCTb cited events in Denmark and Germany, and concern about continuing internationalization of the violent jihad in Afghanistan as the rationale for maintaining the level at "limited." It also noted a significant drop in the number of reports about possible Islamic radicalization among the Dutch population, citing growing resistance among the Muslim population to terrorist actions.

Nevertheless, the assessment warned about growing support for Salafism. According to an October report by the AIVD intelligence service, the Netherlands had approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Muslims who are susceptible to extremist ideology. As concern over possible radicalization mounted, the government launched efforts meant to foster integration and to combat the appeal of violent extremists, including teaching imams the Dutch language and culture. In 2007, the Dutch government devoted millions of euros and reorganized some offices in order to take on these issues in a more concerted way.

In November, the Justice Ministry launched a new phase in the "Netherlands against Terrorism" campaign that began in 2006, with a particular focus on the prevention of radicalization. In November, the Interior Ministry's National Advisory Center for Vital Infrastructure Protection (NAVI) was opened. The government's terror alert system, initiated 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. This early-warning system was designed to trigger a clear and rapid response to terrorist threats by both the public and private sectors. It linked sector-specific measures to be taken in response to the latest threat information from the National Counterterrorism Coordinator. In June, the Port Security Act came into force, expanding the definition of a "port" to include all works and facilities in the port area, including both seagoing and inland commercial maritime transportation-related facilities. In October, a biannual national disaster exercise, known as "Voyager," was held in and around the port of Rotterdam.

There were three major terrorism-related cases this year. In the Hofstad group appeal case, the public prosecutor's office sought 18-year prison sentences for both Jason Walters (a dual U.S.-Dutch national) and Ismael Aknikh, who were sentenced to 15 and 13 years imprisonment, respectively, for attempted murder and weapons violations in the trial court's March 2006 verdict. The prosecution argued that the two had acted with terrorist intent when they threw a hand grenade at police officers in The Hague in November 2004. The prosecution further argued that all Hofstad Group members acted with terrorist intent in sowing hatred and threatening politicians. The trial court ruled, in March 2006, that the Hofstad Group was a criminal organization "with terrorist intent," and found nine of the 14 defendants guilty of membership in a criminal and terrorist organization, but that there was insufficient evidence to convict the individual defendants of acting with "terrorist intent" in committing the criminal offences with which they were charged.

After two previous acquittals, the Amsterdam appeals court sentenced Samir Azzouz to four years imprisonment for having prepared terrorist attacks on government buildings in 2004. Azzouz was currently serving an eight-year sentence in the separate "Piranha" terrorism case.

In October, the Rotterdam district court acquitted five of the six suspects arrested in November 2006 on suspicion of terrorist recruitment, participating in a terrorist organization, and obtaining false travel documents. The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the defendants had "ideologically prepared" each other or other persons to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq to convict them on terrorist recruitment charges. One female defendant in the case was sentenced to one month imprisonment for distributing subversive documents.

Dutch officials 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. The Dutch government worked with the United States to emphasize the importance of balancing security, the effectiveness of the financial system, and data protection concerns in the debate over SWIFT, an international messaging service for cross-border money transfers that provided information to track terrorist financing.

In October, the Cabinet approved a bill to make participation and cooperation in a terrorist training camp a serious punishable offence, even if the training takes place outside the Netherlands; the offense would carry a maximum prison sentence of eight years. The bill, currently before the Council of State for review prior to submission to Parliament, would implement Article 7 of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. In March, the lower house of Parliament approved the Bill on Administrative National Security Measures, which would allow the Interior Minister to issue restraining orders to prohibit a terrorist suspect's physical proximity to specific locations or persons. At year's end the bill was awaiting action by the upper house of Parliament.

The port of Rotterdam completed the installation of 31 radiological portal monitors at container facilities. The radiological monitoring program was initiated in 2004 as a pilot project under the U.S. Department of Energy's Megaport/Second Line of Defense Initiative. In October, a new mobile container scanner became operational in the port of Rotterdam. The scanner has a processing capacity of 20 containers per hour, or 175,000 per year.

During bilateral law enforcement consultations in October, the United States and the Netherlands agreed to continue operational cooperation on counterterrorism, including the exchange of information on terrorism-related investigations. In October, three Dutch government officials observed the U.S. Top Officials (TOPOFF 4) national crisis management exercises.

In January, Wasem al Delaema, an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen was extradited to the United States for trial on charges of conspiring to attack U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003. Al Dalaema was the first Dutch citizen extradited on charges of terrorism, and the first person to be indicted in the United States for terrorist activities in Iraq.


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