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Sex, Lies, and a Terrorist Trial : Emerson Vermaat's first hand account of the Hofstadgroep trial in Amsterdam

December 27, 2005

Sex, Lies and a Terrorist Trial

By Emerson Vermaat |

December 27, 2005

Three women dressed in what was close to a burqa were giggling and chatting as prosecutor Koos Plooy addressed the court. "What a nasty man," I heard one of the women say. The women were among the public present at the Hofstadgroup Trial in Amsterdam where fourteen Muslim extremists from the Netherlands are currently on trial (most of them are Dutch Moroccans).

The women arrived at the court house to show their solidarity with Hofstadgroup member Mohammed Fahmi Boughaba and another woman named Soumaya Sahla. Soumaya, just 17 years old, was not on trial this time (she had been convicted in a previous court case); she was now on the witness stand and therefore under oath. She was one of the girlfriends of 23-year old Nouredine el Fatmi ("Fouad"), a small and bearded fanatic occasionally displaying a sarcastic smile and born in Midar, Morocco. He is one of the most prominent members of the Hofstadgroup on trial in Amsterdam.

Nouredine and Soumaya were arrested in the metro station of Amsterdam-Lelylaan on June 22, 2005. Nouredine was carrying a machine gun an Achram 2000 in his bag. His weapon was fully loaded and ready for use. El Fatmi, who does not have a residence permit in the Netherlands, liked to seduce young Dutch Moroccan women and then force them into an "Islamic marriage."

Soumaya was already legally married to a Dutch Moroccan man in The Hague, but that did not deter El Fatmi who seeks new recruits all the time for his extremist "Takfiri" version of Islam. His previous girlfriend was 16-year old Malika Shabi. Called to testify in court, Malika did not dare to speak after she had received death threats from somebody inside or close to the Hofstadgroup. She was so terrified that she avoided looking at him.

Somewhere in April or May 2005, El Fatmi met Lahbib Bachar and Hanan Sarok, a young and happy Dutch Moroccan couple living in The Hague they were not fanatics but moderate Muslims. Initially, El Fatmi was friendly, later he evolved into a real intruder, demanding that they no longer watch "Satanic" television programs and listen to the radio. He even forced them to sell their furniture to a relative.

There was no doubt that El Fatmi was interested in seducing the pretty and slim Hanan, but her loyalty to her husband proved stronger than anything else. El Fatmi then started to intimidate the happy young couple. He and Soumaya took Lahbib and Hanan to a forest in Amsterdam, opened his bag and suddenly produced his Achram 2000 machine gun. He aimed at a tree, pulled the trigger and fired twice. He then gave the automatic weapon to Soumaya who also pulled the trigger. El Fatmi turned to Lahbib and told him to do the same. Lahbib noticed that Fatmi was serious about it. He took the machine gun, and, aiming at another tree, he fired, too. He then gave the weapon back to El Fatmi who asked Hanan to try the weapon. She was terrified and refused. So far, she had never touched a weapon of any kind. But El Fatmi and Lahbib insisted. "I was afraid that he would shoot me dead, if I didn't do it," Hanan later testified in court, sobbing repeatedly. Lahbib also felt completely intimidated.

Both Hanan and Lahbib were quite relieved when their dangerous young Moroccan friend Nouredine expressed the wish to go to Brussels to find an apartment for himself. Having no residence permit himself he forced Hanan and Lahbib to sign the contract and rent the apartment for him. Hoping El Fatmi would stay in Brussels and leave them alone, they obliged. But he did not stay there all the time. He forced them to accompany him on his trips to Holland and back to Brussels, during which he was often accompanied by Soumaya.

In court, El Fatmi challenged Hanan asking: "Why are you afraid of me?" Sobbing again, Hanan said: "Because of your extremist ideology." She then told the court: "On one occasion, he really threatened me in Belgium. I was in the hallway of the apartment in Brussels when he pointed a gun at me." As Hanan was saying this, the judge noticed that El Fatmi was smiling. "Why are you smiling?" the judge asked. "She is a liar," he said. "But why did you smile?" the judge asked once more. "I have the right to remain silent,'" El Fatmi said.

Lahbib Bachar told the court in Amsterdam he had also been threatened by El Fatmi. He was told once: "If you refuse to do what I want, your hands will be tied and you'll have a bullet in your head." Lahbib had seen at least three weapons in the Brussels apartment: a machine gun and a silencer, a baby uzi and a pistol as well as boxes filled with ammunition. "I have the right to remain silent," El Fatmi's girlfriend Soumaya Sahla said when prosecutor Plooy questioned her about the shooting exercises in the Amsterdam forest. But in private telephone conversations with relatives, she used to be much more talkative. In June 2005, the Dutch Security and Intelligence Service (AIVD) tapped a telephone conversation between Soumaya and her brother. "I am walking with a 9 mm Achram 2000 machine gun," she said. "Believe me, everything will be reversed now," she told her brother.

Both in her own court case and later in the Hofstadgroup Trial as a witness (and consequently under oath), she claimed that when she talked to her brother about weapons, she was just making fun. She had seen the weapon on a website when she looked over El Fatmi's shoulder in an Internet cafe in Amsterdam. She further claimed she never saw El Fatmi carrying a gun or weapon.

Nobody in the courtroom accused her of committing perjury. And in interrogations with the police she said: "He is not the kind of man to carry a gun." In Holland, this kind of lying on the stand is not exceptional. Lying, moreover, is an integral part of the extremists' ideology and jihadist strategy. As a Muslim, you are not obliged to tell the truth once an infidel is challenging you. Courts in Western countries are seen as Taghut, or unholy institutions. The extremists abide by their own laws only the so-called sharia law which is applied by special sharia courts. In some Western countries there are shadow sharia courts and sharia judges (they usually are extremist Muslim clerics). In Britain, for example, there is "The Sharia Court of the UK," and I happen to know one of its "judges." Yet, there is some inconsistancy in the behavior of these extremists. They always seem to find the best lawyers for themselves. If they are convicted, they always seek a revision by the appeals court; indeed, they are often quite eager to sue others with whom they disagree. They seem to know their rights in Western societies quite well. If the laws of the infidels are helpful in promoting the rule of Islam, why not make use of them?

A few days before Soumaya Sahla and Nouredine el Fatmi were arrested in Amsterdam, Soumaya had long telephone conversation with her sister Hanan who was working in a pharmacy in The Hague, the city where most of the ministries and houses of parliament are located. Everything they said was monitored by the Dutch security service. Soumaya tried to extract information from her sister about politicians visiting the pharmacy. Some of these politicians were also targeted by the Hofstadgroup and Soumaya asked Hanan to provide her with information on the private addresses of these politicians. Hanan did not oblige, however.

In court, Soumaya claimed: "I was talking nonsense." Her lame excuse was that her sister Hanan wanted her to go back to her parents. She, Soumaya, pretended to agree with the way her sister was talking. "Period!" she shouted to the judge. Another obvious lie. There is no doubt that Soumaya and Nouredine El Fatmi were planning something evil. At the time of their arrest, El Fatmi's Achram 2000 machine gun was fully loaded and ready for use. He only needed to pull the trigger. He could have killed tens of people in the metro station or in the departure hall of the nearby Schiphol airport. Or he could have found out the private addresses of politicians targeted by the Hofstadgroup.

After the arrest of other leading members of the Hofstadgroup, El Fatmi began to see himself as the new "emir" -- or the leader. He had already written a martyr's testament in 2003. And he met another condition for becoming a martyr: he married Soumaya only two months ago (Suicide terrorists usually marry shortly before they carry out their hideous plans). In court, El Fatmi repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent. By arresting him, plans for a terrorist attack in the Netherlands were frustrated. Apart from finding a machine gun in his bag, the police discovered that he was carrying two additional items in the same bag: a photo of Osama bin Laden and a so-called mediaplayer with a disk full of speeches of bin Laden and horror films on beheadings by men crying "Allahu Akhbar!"

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