Netherlands: Acquittal for alleged terrorists (1)

Source: Rechtbank Rotterdam, press statement from the Court, dated: 5-06-2003

"In the criminal proceedings against twelve alleged terrorists, all accused have been
acquitted of the most serious crimes they were charged with. Two accused were convicted
for the possession of forged documents and received a prison sentenced of two and four
months. The charges included participation in a criminal organisation, forging travel
documents, providing assistance to the enemy at times of war and drug trafficking. The
public prosecutor had demanded prison sentences varying from six months to three years.
During the trial, the Public Prosecutions Service (OM) amended the initial charges and
demanded acquittal for a number of offences. For four of the accused, the Court had
already ordered their immediate release. With regard to the remaining eight accused that
were still in pre-trial detention, the Court now also orders their release.

With regard to the defence attorneys pleas against the Public Prosecutions Services (OM)
mode of operation in the criminal investigation, the Court holds that the Public Prosecutions
Service (OM) made mistakes and has been inaccurate.

The Public Prosecutions Service (OM) caused arrests to be made and searches conducted
on the basis of information from the National Security Service (BVD) and its successor the
General Intelligence and Security Office (AIVD), supplied to the National Public Prosecutor
responsible for combating terrorism. A large number of books, documents and video and
audiotapes were seized. Also because of the fact that two criminal investigations were
joined it is difficult to trace where what was found. Because of the sheer amount of material
that was seized and the fact that this material was in Arabic, it was inevitable that only part
of the material could be translated. However, the selection that was made may lead to a
biased view. The Court holds that the selection can be said to be inaccurate. In addition, the
Court holds that the way of presenting the material to the experts was inaccurate.

The Court finds the way in which conclusions were drawn in the review official report with
regard to the organisational structure the accused allegedly operated in and the role each
accused allegedly played, as well as the way the public prosecutor during his closing speech
suddenly distanced himself from a number of these conclusions, inaccurate and troubling.
Should there be a judicial finding of fact with regard to the charges and sentencing,
compensation in the form of a mitigation of the sentence, would be appropriate.

The fact that it is impossible to assess the source of the information provided by the
National Security Service (BVD)/the General Intelligence and Security Office (AIVD) and
its factual accuracy, should affect the assessment of evidence originating from the National
Security Service (BVD)/the General Intelligence and Security Office (AIVD). The Court
sees no ground for barring the prosecution; the Court does hold, however, that the contents
of the reports from the National Security Service (BVD)/the General Intelligence and
Security Office (AIVD) attached to the record, should not serve as evidence for any
offences with which the accused was charged, because the contents cannot be tested with
regard to factual accuracy.

With regard to the suspicion against the accused of participation in a criminal organisation
the Court takes the grounds that in accordance with legal precedent this means there should
be a structured and continuing cooperation of two or more individuals with a certain degree
of organisation. Such cooperation can be seen to exist if within the cooperation there are
common rules and a common object


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