Victory For Dutch Prosecutors Against ISIS Recruiters - Exclusive Report On Terror Trial By Emerson Vermaat
December 14, 2015
By EMERSON VERMAAT
On December 10, 2015, a Dutch court from the city of the Hague convicted nine members of a terrorist organization or group for recruiting and instigating young Muslims to join the jihad in Syria. This group primarily (but not exclusively) operated in The Hague and in the "Schilderswijk," a problematic multicultural neighborhood dominated by Moroccan and Turkish immigrants. This terrorist organization in the Netherlands was an important propaganda outlet for the extremely dangerous "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" (ISIS or IS). Some members of the group even traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Two members of the group returned to Holland. This court case was referred to as ‘Context."
"An organization was operating in the "Schilderswijk" in The Hague which was partially involved in legal activities but also incited and recruited young people for participation in the jihad in Syria," the court ruled. They also facilitated trips of jihadists by collecting money, providing information on travel routes andthere were numerous social media messages, retweets, facebook messages, hate speeches and videos on the violent jihad and martyrdom. "Under the cloak of freedom of speech poisonous messages and inciting videos were distributed," the court said.
The court rightly referred to this terrorist organization as a "recruitment organization" ("ronselorganisatie"). Defense lawyers were quite dismayed.
Azzedine Choukoud, a Moroccan-Dutch citizen born in 1982, was the leader and ideologue of the group and is also known as Abou Moussa. He lived in the "Schilderswijk" where he began to recruit young Muslims for the jihad in Syria.Lots of Moroccan parents were alarmed and began to inform the police about Abou Moussa and his ever growing circle of friends.
On Facebook, Choukoud advised potential recruits not the reveal their real intentions. "Traveling to Syria is not against the law," he wrote. "It could be punishable by law if you join Jobha Nosra (=Jabhat Al-Nusra or the Al-Qaeda branch in Syria, V.) and #ISIS." These "Mujahedeen" are listed as terrorists. Choukoud then advised (jihadist) travelers "not to write on the Internet about their destination or the group they want to join." "This can be used as evidence against you." "If you are caught, do not talk until they have presented the indictment to you and you consulted your lawyer FIRST." "Be smarter than these animals! And… have a good trip when you travel to Syria."
In court Choukoud tried to present himself as a moderate or "mainstream" Muslim, but the three judges did not believe him. They were upset by his activities and his leading role in the terrorist organization and sentenced him to six years in prison. They also took note of his remarkable advice to jihadists who traveled to Syria that they had to deceive the authorities.
The number of jihadists that left the Dutch city of The Hague to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq is extremely high. By March 2015, their number was 46, six women women among them. Twelve jihadists from The Hague died and ten others returned to Holland. These numbers would even have been higher if the pro-ISIS organization operating in the "Schilderswijk" and other places had not been rounded up by the police in the summer of 2014. Lessons were learned from what happened in Belgium where Sharia4Belgium, another dangerous terrorist organization, also recruited numerous jihadists who joined Al-Nusra or ISIS.
Rudolph Holierhoek (born in 1989), the son of a Dutch judge, was one of the core members of the terrorist organization. He was the webmaster of the jihadist website "De Ware Moslim" (The True Muslim), one of the propaganda channels of ISIS and other jihadi groups in the Netherlands. Holierhoek distributed the jihadist film "Oh Oh Aleppo" via internet. This film from June 24, 2014, was made by Soufiane Zerguit, a Moroccan-Dutch citizen from the "Schilderswijk."He was born in 1988 and joined ISIS in Syria. "We never felt so good," Soufiane says in the video. On Twitter he referred to himself as "Abu Muhammed Zarqawi."
In court Holierhoek tried to present himself as a moderate Muslim, although he also referred to himself as a "jihadi-salafist." He even lamely claimed that he was not very familiar with the concept of jihad. Presiding judge René Elkerbout was stunned and did not believe it (October 8, 2015). Holierhoek was very active in promoting jihadist propaganda on social media ("De Ware Religie", internet "Radio Ghuraaba," etc.). This is why the Dutch court sentenced him to three years in prison (in addition to a provisional sentence of one year).
Soufiane traveled to Syria at the end of December 2013 where he joined the jihad calling himself "fighting journalist" on social media. His younger brother Anis Zerguit (born in 1991) traveled to Syria on March 24, 2013, where he joined Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda. (He later joined ISIS, though.). But Soufiane died in the battle for the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani on January 22, 2015. American bombs killed him there. Due to very courageous Kurdish resistance fighters in Northern Syria and massive American air support,ISIS failed to conquer this town.
On October 6, 2014, three months before he was killed, the arrogant and fanatical Soufiane Zerguit posted a photo on Twitter showing ISIS jihadists from the so-called "Band of Brothers," and their kalashnikovs, among them Dutch jihadists Hatim Mohamed Rodgers (born in 1989), Muslim convert Thijs Belmonte (born in 1989 and recognizable because of his red hair), Anis and Soufiane Zerguit. Anis, Hatim Rodgers and Thijs Belmonte (Abu Ibrahiem) are still in Syria. On Twitter Belmonte posted a video showing a man being beheaded by ISIS in the Syrian town of Al-Baab (or Al-Bab). Belmonte seems to be proud of what he witnessed, a serious war crime, of course.
The court sentenced Anis Zerguit and Hatim Rodgers on December 10, 2015, in absentia to six years in prison. Two months earlier, on October 8, 2015, that is, the court ruled that Soufiane was probably dead and that it did not make sense to convict a jihadist who was no longer alive. Unfortunately, Belmonte was not on trial in Holland. I hope he will be prosecuted soon. His name is on the terrorist watch list.
Soufiane was a close friend of Azzedine Choukoud, the main suspect in the recent jihad trial. It was in March 2013 that Choukoud (Abou Moussa) and Soufiane were arrested near the Greek-Turkish border. They were on their way to Turkey from where they planned to travel to Syria. The Greek police found four cell phones and 6,000 Euros in Choukoud's rucksack. From Syria Anis Zerguit tried to assist those jihadists from the Hague who also wanted to join terrorist organizations in Syria. Soufiane and Azzedine had to return to Holland, but Soufiane's second atempt to travel to Syria (in December 2013, that is) was more successful. The same Soufiane had been arrested in Pakistan back in 2011 after he tried to travel to Afghanistan where he probably planned to join the Taliban or Al-Qaeda or another militant group. He spent several months in Pakistani jail before he was sent back to Holland.
Oussama Chanou (Abou Yazeed) is a Moroccan-Dutch born in 1996. He was still seventeen years old (!) when he began his jihadist career as a hate preacher.He was arrested on June 24, 2014, on suspicion of having recruited young Muslims for the jihad in Syria as well as incitement to terrorism. Chanou was sentenced to six years in prison. He was a core member of the pro-ISIS terrorist organization in Holland.
On July 4 and 24, 2014, Abou Yazeed's friends organized two spectacular demonstrations in the "Schilderswijk" where they demanded his release. Two black ISIS flags were also displayed – together with other black jihadist flags.(Black is the color of death, by the way.) Azzedine Choukoud addressed the demonstrators on both occasions. On July 4, 2014, Choukoud and the demonstrators shouted the anti-Semitic slogan "Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa Yahud!" ("Remember Khaybar, Khaybar, Oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return.") During the battle of Khaybar in 629 Mohammed defeated Jews living in an oasis. Eventually, all Jews living in the Arab Peninsula were either killed or had to leave.
On July 24, 2014, the same anti-Semitic slogan was shouted by Choukoud and others. In addition to this Choukoud said: "We Muslims must fight until the Europeans will feel that they have given our own holy land to those dirty Jews." Again, two black ISIS flags were displayed.
In court, however, Choukoud quickly distanced himself from anti-Semitism – no doubt, he followed the advice of his defense lawyer André Seebregts.
Choukoud was not the only member of the group accused of anti-Semitism. The prosecutors pointed out that there were anti-Semitic tweets from Rudolph Holierhoek. On May 8, 2014, Holierhoek tweeted a story about a Spanish village. When you translate the name of this village from Spanish it says: "Kill Jews."("Dood Joden.") Holierhoek commented: "Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me." ("Niets mis mee als je het mij vraagt.")
And on July 9, 2014, he tweets: "May Allah utterly and totally destroy that terrorist zionist people." ("Moge Allah dat terroristische zionistenvolk met wortel en al van de kaart vegen.") In court, however, Holierhoek, too, denied he was an anti-Semite. He added that these tweets had been wrong.
Iman Bouraarassi, a Moroccan-Dutch citizen from the city of Arnhem and born in 1988, was the only woman on trial. Wearing a black niqab she did not say anything during the police interrogations and court sessions. She is the Islamic wife of Azzedine Choukoud whose ideas she shares. The prosecutors told the court that she sympathizes with ISIS and justifies the jihad in Syria. The couple probably tried to travel to Turkey and Syria in August 2014, but once in Croatia they decided to go back. They were arrested in southern Germany at the end of August and then returned to Holland.
A highly interesting notebook was found in her toiletry bag. "The people are fed up with terror, together with ISIS revolting against Shiite Zionist terror." ("Volk is terreur zat, samen met ISIS in opstand tegen Sjiitisch Zionist terreur.") And on December 28, 2013, she retweeted a message from "@AbeMoussa": #ISIS soldiers are on their way. Be patient o Jerusalem, we are on our way!" ("ISIS soldaten onderweg. Wees geduldig o Jeruzalem, wij zijn onderweg!"). Abe Moussa is Abou Moussa, Bouraarassi's husband.
Jordi de Jong was born in the Dutch Technical University town of Delft (near The Hague) in 1993. He was 18-years-old when he fell in love with an Antillean girl who was a conservative Muslim. Jordi converted to Islam and traveled to Syria in March/April 2013. He went to a jihadist training camp but was disappointed by the rigorous daily routine and military training. He didn't want to fight and kill other people, that is at least what he claimed in court. So he returned to the Netherlands after about four weeks. He was interrogated by the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and probably provided them with some information on his trip to Syria. In court the claimed that AIVD officials had promised him that he would not be prosecuted if he talked to them, but the court ruled that such promises, if indeed made, were not valid. Jordi was sentenced to 155 days in prison (in addition to a provisional sentence of six months).
Hicham El Ouahchi (Abou Redouan), a Moroccan-Dutch citizen, was born in 1985. He traveled to Saudi Arabia and Yemen in July 2012 and returned from Yemen on October 31, 2012. He then traveled to Syria in January 2013 and returned to the Netherlands in October 2013. The prosecutors claimed that he was in touch with Azzedine Choukoud, both before and after he traveled to Syria. From Syria he usuallly reached Choukoud by phone. (This was based on a report from the AIVD, the Dutch General Security and Intelligence Service.) There were also frequent contacts between El Ouahchi, Anis and his brother Soufiane Zerguit. (Soufiane was still in the Netherlands at the time, so he was often contacted by phone.)
El Ouahchi also knew Saleh Eddine Akkouh, another jihadist from Holland.And he assisted yet another jihadist from Holland, Soufiane El Hankari, when the latter arrived at the Syrian-Turkish border in June 2013. El Ouahchi drove to the border and picked El Hankari up. This was done at the request of Anis Zerguit, the prosecutors claimed. (El Hankari himself is no longer alive.) The prosecutors did not believe that El Ouahchi was merely involved in humanitarian assisance, as he had frequently claimed himself. Neither did the court. The judges sentenced him to five years in prison, even one year more than the prosecutors had demanded.
Moussa Lghoul (Abou Ilias) was born in 1974. This Moroccan-Dutch citizen traveled to Morocco together with Azzedine Choukoud and Hatim Rodgers. There they met Sheikh Omar El Haddouchi, a hate cleric suspected of having recruited Spanish jihadists. During this trip photos were made. One of these photos shows Choukoud in front of a wall with a painted Nazi swastika on it.
Lghoul was present at the pro-ISIS demonstrations in the "Schilderswijk" in 2014 where anti-Semitic slogans were being shouted. And on January 4, 2015,he retweeted the anti-Semitic text "Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa Yahud!" (He added the word "amerika" in the next line.) The prosecutors claimed that Lghoul glorified jihad and martyrdom. On January 1, 2015, he retweeted an ISIS propaganda photo showing armed men (hashtags #IS, #ISIS, #Islamic State, #Mujahideen) and the following text: "If the sky would be proud of the extistence of the stars Then the land would be proud of the existence of the Mujahideen."
On January 6, 2015, Lghoul tweeted the following text: "I may look calm, but in my head I've killed you 3 times."
Lghoul issued serious (death) threats against police officers in The Hague, a female police officer in the "Schilderswijk" among them. "Allah will fight against them and curse them." ("Allah zal hen bestrijden en vervloeken.")
The judges specifically mentioned these threats in their verdict, yet theysentenced Lghoul to just 43 days in prison (in addition to a provisional sentence of two months). The prosecutors had demanded a more appropriate prison sentence of 30 months.
Emerson Vermaat, MA (law, Leiden University, the Netherlands), is author of a Dutch book on ISIS published in May 2015. He also covered the recent Dutch trial against ISIS recruiters. Website: www.emersonvermaat.com.
For an American review of my book see:
Rechtbank Den Haag, Zaak Context, Vonnis (Verdict), December 10, 2015, author's notes. The full text of the nearly 300-page verdict will be published later.
Emerson Vermaat, "De Haat Mag Niet Overslaan Naar Onze Straten – De Terreurdreiging door Islamitische Staat (Soesterberg, the Netherlands, Aspekt Publishers, 2015), p. 139. A staggering number of jihadists from The Hague.
Author's notes of court proceedings, October 8, 2015 (Holierhoek claims he is not very familiar with the concept of jihad; swastika painted on a wall in Morocco.)
Fighting journalists/Oh Oh Aleppo, "De Spookstad," Shaam al Malaahim, Op ribaat met de NL Mujahideen, You Tube,
("We hebben ons nog nooit zo goed gevoeld.")
RTLNieuws (the Netherlands), March 30, 2015, Dit zijn de jihadisten van wie de tegoeden zijn bevroren,
("Anis Z. is op 24 maart 2013 uit Nederland vertrokken.")
Vrij Nederland (Amsterdam), October 6, 2015, Vandaag in de jihadzaak: het spookproces,
(Photo of the so-called "Band of Brothers.")
Thijs Belmonte/Abu Ibrahiem bij onthoofding in Syrië, You Tube, December 18, 2014, Twitter van (from) Abu ibrahiem/Thijs Belmonte,
RTLNieuws, January 22, 2015, Jihadist Soufiane Z. is gedood, wat weten we van hem?,
Rechtbank Den Haag, October 8, 2015, Betreft een verdachte die zou hebben deelgenomen aan de gewapende strijd in Syrië en aldaar zou zijn komen te overlijden,
Rechtbank Den Haag, November 24, 2015, Behandeling zaak Soufiane Z. voor onbepaalde tijd aangehouden,
Algemeen Dagblad (Rotterdam), October 1, 2014, Jordi van X Factor naar jihadistenkamp,
Politie (Police in The Hague, press release), June 24, 2014, Ronselaar Syrië vast,
Omroep West (Regional TV), July 4, 2014, Radicale moslims demonstreren in Haagse Schilderswijk,
Openbaar Ministerie, Requisitoir Zaak Context, October 19 and 20, 2015, p. 71 ("Het Openbaar Ministerie was zeer verbaasd om Holierhoek te horen zeggen dat hij zich niet zou hebben verdiept in het thema van de jihad…"); p. 74 (visiting Sheikh Omar El Haddouchi in Morocco); p. 75 (Iman Bouraarassi); p. 154 (anti-Semitic tweets from Rudolph Holierhoek); p. 165 ("ISIS soldaten onderweg…"); pp. 182-186 (Moussa Lghoul); pp. 192, 193 (Anti-Semitic slogans during "Schilderswijk" demonstrations); Choukoud: "Wij moslims moeten vechten zodat de Europeanen voelen dat ze ons heilige land aan die vuile Joden hebben gegeven"; pp. 231, 232 (Ambtsbericht AIVD); pp. 233, 234 (Soufiane El Hankari): "Hij (=Anis Zerguit, V.) heeft Abou Redouan gebeld en geregeld dat die hem gaat ophalen"; p. 317: "In Syrië heeft hij veelvuldig contact met leden van de groep, zoals Anis Zerguit, Akkouh en El Kharbachi."
Mobile Twitter message from LghoulM, "I may look calm, but in my head I've killed you 3 times," January 6, 2015,
Another tweet was dated January 4, 2015 (the Islamic curse: katalahumuAllah),