Wednesday, November 3, 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch police have arrested eight suspected Islamic radicals as part of the investigation into the slaying of outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh, prosecutors said yesterday.

The suspects were detained in the 24 hours after Mr. Van Gogh’s killing while he biked along an Amsterdam street, prosecution spokeswoman Dop Kruimel said.

Six detainees are of Moroccan origin, one is Algerian, and the other has dual Spanish-Moroccan nationality, she said.

The suspect in the killing — a 26-year-old suspected Muslim extremist with dual Moroccan-Dutch citizenship — was arrested Tuesday after a shootout with police. The unidentified suspect was wounded in the leg.

Miss Kruimel said the suspects, whose identities were not given, had been detained and released during an October 2003 investigation into a potential terrorist threat.

Mr. Van Gogh, 47, who received death threats after his recent movie sharply criticized how women are treated under Islam, was repeatedly shot and stabbed on an Amsterdam street on Tuesday.

“Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Have mercy. Have mercy,” the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper quoted Mr. Van Gogh as begging his killer.

The Dagblad newspaper said the killer shot Mr. Van Gogh eight or nine times, then calmly slipped his weapon in the pocket of a beige raincoat before bending over his victim and slitting his throat.

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said that the suspect “acted out of radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions” and that he had contacts with a group that was under surveillance by the Dutch secret service.

The suspect is thought to be friends with Samir Azzouz, an 18-year-old Muslim of Moroccan origin awaiting trial on charges of planning a terrorist attack targeting a nuclear reactor and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, NOS Dutch television reported.

Mr. Azzouz was among those arrested in October 2003, but released for lack of evidence. He was re-arrested in June.

Yesterday, about 20,000 people poured into Amsterdam’s central square to protest the attack. Many blew horns and whistles and banged pots and pans.

Well-wishers brought hundreds of flowers to the spot where Mr. Van Gogh was slain. Others brought beer, cigarettes and cactus plants — a reference to Mr. Van Gogh’s prickly artistic nature and his habit of giving guests on his television talk show a cactus as a gift.

Mr. Van Gogh — an award-winning filmmaker, television producer and newspaper columnist — once mocked a prominent Dutch Jew, referred to Jesus as “the rotten fish” of Nazareth and called a radical Muslim politician “Allah’s pimp.”

The great-grandson of painter Vincent Van Gogh’s brother released the film “Submission” in August about a Muslim woman who was beaten and sexually abused.

In the fictional story, a veiled Muslim woman spoke about her violent marriage, being raped by a relative and later brutally punished for adultery. In some scenes, the actress’ naked body is shown through a transparent gown. One scene shows her body with Koranic verses written on it.

Some Muslims and women’s groups said the movie’s depiction of the abuse of women was insensitive.

The English-language film was written by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a lawmaker who has outraged Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways.

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