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Dutch Police Arrest Suspect in Political Assassination - 2002-05-07


Dutch police have arrested a man they say is the suspect in the shooting death of far-right politician Pim Fortuyn. They say he is a Dutch man between 30 and 35 years old, but they don't know his identity because he's not cooperating with police.

The first political assassination in Dutch modern memory has left this nation shocked and horrified. Maverick Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was shot dead earlier Monday evening after leaving a radio studio in the town of Hilversum. He had received death threats before, and during his last interview, he spoke about them. But, he said he would live until he was 87. Shortly after, he was dead at age 54, after taking six bullets to the head, chest, and neck.

The right-wing candidate entered the political arena just six months ago, but he's changed its landscape with his outspoken and temperamental style in a country where the terms of debate rarely reach the extremes. Flamboyant, wealthy, and openly gay, Mr. Fortuyn campaigned on issues such as health, education, and crime.

But his main platform was anti-immigration: he called for closing the Dutch doors to any more foreigners. It's a policy that clearly had appeal. His party, Lijst Fortuyn, won the majority of seats in local elections in his home city of Rotterdamdespite, which has a high immigrant population. And, he was also slated to do well in next week's general elections, where his party was thought to be crucial to the formation of the next coalition government.

For now, Dutch politicians have called off campaigning. Mr. Fortuyn's death sparked fighting and some car burning among his supporters in The Hague. Acting Prime Minister Wim Kok called the shooting deeply tragic and appealed for calm. The Netherlands is a tolerant country with respect for each others opinions, he said. That self-view is now being sorely tested as many here call the night's events indescribable.

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