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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Emerson Vermaat: Lawyers for EU Jihad

Emerson Vermaat: Lawyers for EU Jihad

January 28, 2006

Lawyers for EU Jihad
By Emerson Vermaat


You have professional criminal defense attorneys whose attitude inside and outside the courtroom clearly shows they are devoid of any ideological or political bias. Take Dutch defense attorney Peter Plasman, a man highly respected by his colleagues, the judges and the press. He was Mohammed Bouyeri's defense attorney – Bouyeri was convicted to life in the Summer of 2005 for killing Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh in November 2004. But for some reason Bouyeri did not like his attorney Peter Plasman very much. He decided to act as his own attorney, addressing the court himself and leaving the small technical details to Plasman.

Initially, Bouyeri preferred a lawyer from the Amsterdam law firm ‘Böhler, Franken, Koppe and Wijngaarden.' This law firm is known for defending terrorist suspects, usually (but not exclusively) with a Muslim background. Victor Koppe, for example, was the defense attorney of Samir Azzouz, a prominent member of the so-called Hofstadgroup. Azzouz was jailed in June 2004 after suspicions that he was involved the robbery of the Edah supermarket in Rotterdam. It was Mohammed Cheppih, another Dutch Moroccan, who recommended Azzouz to ask Koppe to become his defense attorney. Cheppih got his theological training in Saudi Arabia. Cheppih's Saudi professor Abu Bakr El Jezeiri published the book ‘The Path of the Muslim,' in which he calls for the public execution of gay men by throwing them from the highest roof in the city. In addition, El Jezeiri told his followers: ‘Adulterous' women must be stoned to death.

Britta Böhler was born in Germany where she studied. In 1995, she joined a leftist law firm in Amsterdam led by Ties Prakken, an adept of Pieter Bakker Schut. Bakker Schut was a famous Dutch who openly sympathized with the notorious German Baader-Meinhof group, also known as the Red Army Faction (RAF) – a small Marxist terrorist network responsible for the death of some 60 people. Böhler denies it, of course, but there are persistant rumors that she, too, sympathized with the Baader-Meinhof group.

There is no doubt, however, about her strong feelings for the extreme left. Take Abdullah Öcalan, the ruthless PKK-leader responsible for the death thousands of people in Turkey as well as Europe. Just before he was captured by the Turks, Böhler and her law firm tried to arrange Öcalan's flight to Holland where he was to apply for political asylum. The Dutch government prevented this by not giving Öcalan's plane permission to land. Öcalan was a terrorist plain and simple, and the Dutch had no interest in providing a safehaven to such a killer. Böhler and her associates claimed Öcalan's human rights had been violated.

Now Böhler and Koppe play a tumultuous role in the Hofstad Trial in Amsterdam. Some 14 members of the so-called ‘Hofstadgroup' – a radical Dutch network of young admirers of Osama bin Laden and his ilk – are currently on trial. Although he already got a life sentence for killing Van Gogh (in a separate courtcase), Bouyeri, is on trial again for his role in the Hofstadgroup – together with 13 others. Bouyeri is one of the inspirators of the Hofstadgroup. According to prosecutor Koos Plooy, some members of the group wanted to imitiate Bouyeri and kill infidels. There were others who were about to fall for the sectarian 'Takfiri' interpretation of Islam: killing infidels and so-called ‘apostate' Muslims is perfectly alright. During the Hofstad Trial, the judge decided to release two Hofstadgroup suspects. They had already been in prison for more than a year and the time of their preventive custody would otherwise exceed the prison sentence they were expected to get if they were convicted. Böhler and Koppe noticed – much to their dismay – that their clients were not among those released by the judge.

Böhler is the defense attorney of Zacaria Taybi, a friend of Mohammed Bouyeri, Jason Walters and Ismail Akhnikh – three hard-core members of the Hofstadgroup. In the Summer of 2003, both Walters and Akhnikh traveled to Pakistan to receive training in a terrorist training camp (they claimed it was just a ‘Madrassa' or koranic school, but prosecutor Koos Plooy pointed out these training camps are often dressed up as Madrassas). At the end of 2003, Taybi joined Walters on another trip to Pakistan. Taybi paid also frequent visits to Jason Walters' apartment in the Antheunisstraat in The Hague. On November 10, 2004, a special anti-terrorist unit took siege of the apartment after the police had first tried to arrest both Walters and Akhnikh. Walters threw a grenade at the police thereby seriously wounding five policemen (Walters later lamely claimed he had ‘a blackout' when he threw the grenade, in fact he and Akhnikh called on the police to shoot them dead so that they would die as martyrs, they also shouted that they had 20 kilos of explosives and would blow up the whole street). It later turned out that they had three grenades – Yugoslav M91 grenades with tiny bullets in it. Although Taybi was not in the apartment when it was under siege by the special forces, he was one of Walters' best friends.

The judges ruled in December 2004 that Taybi's protective custody must be prolonged. Böhler was angry and reacted in a highly emotional way. In a television interview she talked about ‘an Inquisition Trial.' Comparing the judges to the Spanish inquisition, that is not only a blunt and unfounded accusation, it just not done. Venting your anger via the media in such a way is unprofessional.

Victor Koppe is the defense attorney of Ahmed Hamdi, a young Dutch Moroccan who lived in the same house as Mohammed Bouyeri and who was very close both to him and other members of the Hofstadgroup. During the trial in Amsterdam, Hamdi presented himself as somebody who had never noticed anything, some sort of do-gooder always willing to help friends who knew nothing about computers. Hamdi knew everything about them, so his friends turned to him for advice and help. Of course, he did not know they were using him tot disseminate radical texts. He lived right in Bouyeri's small two-room house where some ten to twenty young radicals listened to inflammatory jihadist speeches of a Syrian man known as Abu Khaled and they watched horror films on decapitations in Iraq and Chechnyia. In October 2004, Bouyeri had the gun with which he would later kill Theo van Gogh. Yet, Hamdi claimed he did not know what was going on. The judge could not believe it, and refused to honor Victor Koppe's request not to keep Hamdi in protective custody anylonger. Koppe was outraged. The next day a journalist from NRC Handelsblad, a friendly newspaper, published an interview with the two vengeful and frustrated attorneys Koppe and Böhler. ‘This is a religious trial,' Britta Böhler raged. ‘These people are on trial because of their religious views, she continued. Really? This is the first time in Dutch legal history that a Dutch lawyer accuses a Dutch court of religious prejudice. Victor Koppe made an equally ridiculous claim: ‘For what is going on at this trial there is only one explanation. They are on trial because they are Muslims. This a variation of the classical witchhunt.' (And Böhler was knodding in approval.)

Ignore the fact that Walters threw a grenade at the police as they tried to arrest him and that he had pocketed another grenade at the time of his arrest, ignore the fact that Ismail Akhnikh shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar!' (‘God is great!') after Jason had thrown his grenade, ignore the fact that Nouredine el Fatmi – also on trial in Amsterdam – carried a fully loaded machine gun (ready for use, he only needed to pull the trigger) when he was arrested in a railway station, ignore the fact all of those on trial had frequent meetings in Bouyeri's house where they watched jihadist videos and listened to calls to kill the infidel, ignore the fact that one witness at the trial refused to testify in court after she had received a letter threatening her with Allah's revenge if she would speak out, ignore the fact that another witness told one of those on trial: ‘I feel threatened by you!' No questions asked about all these things in the friendly newspaper interview in NRC Handelsblad, of course. In the same interview Böhler and Koppe rebuked politicians who had previously criticized Dutch judges for releasing terrorist suspects like Samir Azzouz. But what these lawyers themselves are doing is even worse. They are putting pressure on the judges even before the latter have reached a verdict. They, in fact, tell the judges: ‘If you don't do what we want we'll accuse you of religious persecution (that's what a ‘witchhunt' and ‘the inquisition are all about, are they it not?).' In the interview, Böhler and Koppe also claimed the court judges never asked questions about who is the leader of the Hofstadgroup and about plans for a terrorist attack this group may have had. This is not true. There were questions about Abu Khaled, the so-called leader of the Hofstadgroup, and the judges also posed inquisitive questions about Nouredine el Fatmi's plans when he was arrested in Amsterdam with a loaded machine gun in his bag. They asked: ‘What were you up to, where did you get your weapon from, Mr. Fatmi?' El Fatmi either refused to answer these questions or he preferred to distort the facts.

Really professional defense attorneys never publicly attack a judge during a court trial, especially not in the media. Fanatics like Böhler and Koppe do not hesitate to do so – they obviously have a political agenda of their own. The problem is that the media often are only too willing to provide these people with a platform for wild accusations. As far as the press is concerned, such lawyers seem to know perfectly well who are their friends – one simple phone call may suffice for massive media attention – and who they wish to ignore or ridicule.

In October 2005, NRC Handelsblad and the Dutch TV station ‘KRO' launched conspiracy theories about the Dutch Security and Intelligence Service (AIVD). They suggested that Hofstadgroup member Jason Walters had received his handgrenades from Saleh Bouali, a man they portrayed as an ‘AIVD infomer.' Walters' attorney Robert Maanicus told the KRO TV station that he had reason to believe that this was probably the case. It was also claimed that the same Bouali had been involved in the robbery of the Edah supermarket in Rotterdam. Some documents were leaked, but these did not proof anything. In the court room Victor Koppe later repeatedly suggested that there was a hidden hand of the AIVD behind the trial. This needs to be investigated urgently, he said.

When the judge asked Koppe whether he was behind those sensational stories in the media Koppe did not confirm it, but I did not hear him flatly deny it either. I think he felt quite uneasy when such questions were being asked.

In December 2005, Saleh Bouali appeared as witness in court. He said all the allegations made about him in the media were false. He had never been an AIVD informer nor had he given handgrenades to Jason Walters. Walters stood up, looked angrily at Bouali and said: ‘You did give me those grenades.' Bouali denied it once more. It was Walters, not Bouali who was lying. In January 2006, Prosecutor Plooy quoted from a statement made by Walters at the end of 2004 when he (Walters) was questioned by the examining judge. On that occasion Walters said: ‘Those handgranades belonged to me. I bought them for a good price.' ‘Any suggestions that the AIVD was directly or indirectly involved in supplying handgrenades to Jason Walters is based on fables,' Plooy told the court.


Emerson Vermaat, a law graduate, is an investigative reporter specialized in terrorism and organized crime and author of a Dutch book on the Hofstadgroup. He is covering the Hofstad Trial in Amsterdam. His website is: emersonvermaat.com.

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