A court in the Netherlands has sentenced the self-confessed Muslim killer of a Dutch filmmaker who was critical of Islam to life in prison. The murder last November of Theo Van Gogh stunned the traditionally tolerant country and stirred up ethnic and religious tensions.
Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, was given the harshest possible sentence in a country that does not recognize the death penalty.
Bouyeri, born in the Netherlands to Moroccan parents, shot and stabbed Theo Van Gogh as he cycled to work in Amsterdam. The killer then slashed his victim's throat and thrust a political manifesto into his chest on the point of a knife.
Mr. Van Gogh had aroused anger among Dutch Muslims by making a film highly critical of Islam. The film accused Muslims of sanctioning violence against women.
At his trial, Bouyeri calmly confessed to the crime, saying he wanted to become a martyr for his faith and would commit the same act again if given the chance. He said he regarded Mr. Van Gogh as an enemy of Islam.
Amsterdam district court Judge Udo Willem Bentinck said Bouyeri had killed Mr. Van Gogh in a gruesome manner, had shown no remorse and had committed the crime with what he called terrorist intent. "The public must be accorded maximum protection from the defendant," he said. "As such, there is only one sentence that forbids this crime: life-long imprisonment."
Bouyeri waved his right to mount a defense at his trial. Prosecutors referred to him as a radical Muslim dedicated to waging a holy war against whomever he regarded as an enemy of Islam.
Judge Bentinck said Bouyeri's intent was to spread fear in the Netherlands and undermine Dutch democracy. "The murder of Theo Van Gogh provoked a wave of revulsion and disdain in the Netherlands," said the judge. "He was mercilessly slaughtered."
There are about one million Muslims in the Netherlands, and some of them felt a backlash after the Van Gogh murder. There was a wave of attacks on mosques and other Islamic buildings and counterattacks on Christian churches, but there were no casualties.
The Netherlands has long been one of Europe's most liberal and tolerant countries. But following the Van Gogh murder, the Dutch have begun to reassess their policy of multiculturalism. With concerns growing about homegrown Islamic terrorism, the government is now emphasizing the need to integrate minorities into Dutch society to prevent them from becoming isolated and, therefore, more likely to fall prey to extremism.