Mohammed Bouyeri

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Mohammed Bouyeri
Bouyeri in 2004
Born (1978-03-08) 8 March 1978 (age 39)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Criminal charge Murder, terrorism
Criminal penalty Life without parole
Criminal status In prison

Mohammed Bouyeri (born 8 March 1978) is a Moroccan-Dutch Islamic terrorist and convicted murderer who is serving a life sentence without parole in Vught for the assassination of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh. A member of the Hofstad Network, he was incarcerated in 2004.


Mohammed Bouyeri was a second-generation Berber-Moroccan-Dutchman.[1] In 1995, Mohammed Bouyeri finished his secondary education. He changed his major several times and left after five years without obtaining a degree. A second-generation migrant from Morocco, Bouyeri used the pen name "Abu Zubair" for writing and translating. He often posted letters online and sent e-mails under this name.

At an early age he was known to the police as a member of a group of Moroccan "problem-youth". For a while he worked as a volunteer at Eigenwijks, a neighbourhood organization in Amsterdam's Slotervaart suburb. After his mother died and his father remarried in the fall of 2003, he started to live according to strict interpretations of Sunni Islamic Sharia law. As a result, he could perform fewer and fewer tasks at Eigenwijks. For example, he refused to serve alcohol and did not want to be present at activities attended by both women and men. Finally, he put an end to his activities at Eigenwijks altogether. He grew a beard and began to wear a djellaba. He frequently visited the El Tawheed mosque where he met other radical Sunnis, among whom was the suspected terrorist Samir Azzouz. With the group of radicals he is said to have formed the Hofstad Network, a Dutch terrorist cell.

Assassination of Theo van Gogh[edit]


Filmmaker Theo van Gogh was a vigorous and often polemic critic of several aspects and figures of Dutch society, including religion. In 2004, he and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who was a Dutch member of parliament at the time, directed a short film called Submission, Part I about Islam and violence against women. In the film women are shown wearing transparent clothes with verses of the Quran written on their bodies. The film aired in August 2004 on Dutch television in prime time, the ensuing outcry led the Dutch police to offer police protection for both directors, but van Gogh refused.


The 26-year-old Bouyeri assassinated van Gogh in the early morning of 2 November 2004, in Amsterdam, in front of the city's East Borough office (stadsdeelkantoor) on the corner of the Linnaeusstraat and Tweede Oosterparkstraat (52°21′32.22″N 4°55′34.74″E / 52.3589500°N 4.9263167°E / 52.3589500; 4.9263167), while he was bicycling to work.[2] Bouyeri shot van Gogh eight times with a handgun, and also wounded two bystanders. Wounded, van Gogh ran to the other side of the road and fell to the ground on the cycle lane. According to eyewitnesses, van Gogh's last words were: "Mercy, mercy! We can talk about it, can't we?"

Bouyeri then walked up to van Gogh, who was still lying down, and calmly shot him several more times at close range. Bouyeri then cut van Gogh’s throat and tried to decapitate him with a large knife, after which he stabbed the knife deep into van Gogh's chest, reaching his spinal cord. He then attached a note to the body with a smaller knife before fleeing. Van Gogh died on the spot.[3]

The written note contained a warning to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, consisting of five pages which make mention of the Jewish political actors in Ali's party, as well as other parties in Dutch politics. It contains repeated references to Jewish party-backers and party-leaders. The letter refers to the fundamentalist ideology of the Takfir wal-Hijra. This letter probably was not written by Mohammed Bouyeri himself, but by his group's ideologist.[citation needed] It was signed Saifu Deen alMuwahhied.


Shortly afterwards, Bouyeri was arrested close to the scene of the crime, following an exchange of gunfire with police during which he was shot in the leg. In his interrogations, he exercised his right to remain silent. On November 11, public prosecutor Leo de Wit accused him of six criminal acts: murder, attempted murder (of a police officer), attempted manslaughter (of by-standers and police officers), violation of the law on gun control, suspicion of participation in a criminal organization with terrorist aims, and conspiracy to murder with a terrorist purpose van Gogh, member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others.

When arrested, Bouyeri had on him a farewell poem titled In bloed gedoopt ("Baptized in Blood"), which makes it appear that he intended to die a martyr.


Bouyeri's trial took place over two days, 11 and 12 July 2005, in a high-security building in Amsterdam's Osdorp neighborhood. In a letter on 8 July, he announced that he would not attend the trial voluntarily and that he did not accept its jurisdiction.[4] The prosecutor demanded that he be forcibly transported to the courthouse, which the court granted. Bouyeri's lawyers did attend the trial but did not ask questions or make closing statements. Bouyeri appeared before the court carrying a Qur'an under his arm.[5] At the trial Bouyeri expressed no remorse for the murder he admitted to having done, saying to the victim's mother: "I don’t feel your pain. I don’t have any sympathy for you. I can’t feel for you because I think you’re a non-believer." [6] and that he would have done it again. Bouyeri also argued that "in the fight of the believers against the infidels, violence is approved by the prophet Muhammad".[7]

The prosecutor demanded life imprisonment for Bouyeri, stating: "The defendant rejects our democracy. He even wants to bring down our democracy. With violence. He is insistent. To this day. He sticks to his views with perseverance."[8] On 26 July 2005, Bouyeri received a life sentence, which is the most severe punishment under Dutch law and carries no chance of parole (an early release is technically possible via a pardon by the reigning monarch but this is extremely rare). Other than war criminals, Bouyeri is only the 28th person to receive this punishment since 1945. Life sentences were seen only with multiple-homicide cases, but the Wet terroristische misdrijven ("terrorist crimes law") that went into effect on 10 August 2004 extended it to leaders of terrorist organisations. Imprisonments ordinarily in excess of 15 years can be upgraded to life imprisonment, as was the case with Bouyeri.[9]

He is held in Nieuw Vosseveld prison.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Amsterdam artist Marlene Dumas drew a portrait of Bouyeri in 2005 that has been prominently displayed in the Stedelijk Museum[10]
  • Leon de Winter's bestselling 2012 novel Acts of Kindness features Bouyeri and van Gogh as characters, with van Gogh as "a guardian angel protecting children whose school has been the target of a terrorist attack".[10]
  • Journalist Theodor Holman, one of van Gogh’s best friends, wrote a film in 2014 called 2/11 – Het Spel van de Wolf (a reference to the date van Gogh was killed, November 2; "The Game of the Wolf") that "posits a far-fetched theory that the CIA was in a way responsible for the murder by pressuring the Dutch secret service not to arrest Mr. Bouyeri—whom Dutch authorities had been monitoring—to use him to get to a bigger fish with ties to Al Qaeda".[10] The film premiered at the Netherlands Film Festival in October 2014 and played on national television on November 2, 2014.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Timothy Garton Ash (2012). Facts are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade without a Name. Atlantic Books. ISBN 9780857899101. 
  2. ^ "Gunman kills Dutch film director", BBC, retrieved July 21, 2009.
  3. ^ Emerson Vermaat (2005-12-12). "Terror on Trial in the Netherlands". Assyrian International News Agency. 
  4. ^ "Man accused of van Gogh killing refuses to recognise Dutch court", The Independent
  5. ^ Jan Kanter: "Mohammed B. schweigt", Die Welt, July 12, 2005
  6. ^ Anthony Browne: "Muslim radical confesses to van Gogh killing in court tirade", The Times, 12 July 2005
  7. ^ Jan Kanter, "Van-Gogh-Mörder hält Attentat für Waffe im Glaubenskampf", Die Welt, February 3, 2006
  8. ^ "Requisitoir in de strafzaak tegen Mohammed B", ("Indictment of the criminal case against Mohammed B"). (Waybacked).
  9. ^ Stephen Castle (September 2005). "Life in jail for brutal killer of Dutch film-maker Van Gogh". The Independent. Archived from the original on February 2010. [dead link]
  10. ^ a b c Donadio, Rachel (30 October 2014). "Provocateur's Death Haunts the Dutch". New York Times. 
  11. ^ Van Jaarsveldt, Janene (25 September 2014). "Theo van Gogh "Bait" Claims New Documentary". NL Times. 
Further reading

Further reading[edit]