Mohammed Bouyeri

Mohammed Bouyeri
محمد بويري
Bouyeri in 2004
Born (1978-03-08) 8 March 1978 (age 41)
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Criminal chargeMurder, terrorism
PenaltyLife without parole

Mohammed Bouyeri (Arabic: محمد بويريMuḥammad Būʿyiri; born 8 March 1978) is a Moroccan-Dutch convicted murderer serving a life sentence without parole in the prison of Nieuw Vosseveld (Vught) for the assassination of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh. A member of the Hofstad Network, he was incarcerated in 2004.

Early life

Mohammed Bouyeri is a second-generation Moroccan-Dutchman of Berber origin.[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


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 has become a member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands, 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 front of the Amsterdam-Oost borough office (Dutch: stadsdeelkantoor), 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?"[citation needed]

Bouyeri then walked up to van Gogh, who was still lying down, and 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 11 November, public prosecutor Leo de Wit charged 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, Representative 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 neighbourhood. 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 Quran 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 do not feel your pain. I do not have any sympathy for you. I cannot feel for you because I think you are 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 was sentenced to life in prison, which is the most severe punishment under Dutch law. Unlike other countries in Europe, life imprisonment carries no chance of parole in the Netherlands. A release is technically possible via a pardon by the reigning monarch, but this is extremely rare and only a few of these pardons have ever been successful in recent history. Other than war criminals, Bouyeri is only the 28th person to receive this punishment since 1945, and the only person to receive a life sentence for a single murder without aggravating circumstances. Life sentences were seen only with multiple-homicide cases, but the Wet terroristische misdrijven (English: 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] Bouyeri is held in Nieuw Vosseveld prison.

In popular culture

  • South African artist Marlene Dumas drew a portrait of Bouyeri in 2005 that has been displayed in the Stedelijk Museum.[10]
  • Leon de Winter's bestselling 2012 novel Acts of Kindness features Bouyeri and van Gogh as characters.[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


  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" Archived 2009-06-18 at the Wayback Machine, BBC, retrieved July 21, 2009.
  3. ^ Emerson Vermaat (2005-12-12). "Terror on Trial in the Netherlands". Assyrian International News Agency. Archived from the original on 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  4. ^ "Man accused of van Gogh killing refuses to recognise Dutch court" Archived 2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent.
  5. ^ Jan Kanter: "Mohammed B. schweigt" Archived 2008-05-14 at the Wayback Machine, Die Welt, 12 July 2005.
  6. ^ Anthony Browne: "Muslim radical confesses to van Gogh killing in court tirade" Archived 2007-02-18 at the Wayback Machine, The Times, 12 July 2005.
  7. ^ Jan Kanter, "Van-Gogh-Mörder hält Attentat für Waffe im Glaubenskampf" Archived 2008-03-26 at the Wayback Machine, Die Welt, 3 February 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.
  10. ^ a b c Donadio, Rachel (30 October 2014). "Provocateur's Death Haunts the Dutch". New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  11. ^ Van Jaarsveldt, Janene (25 September 2014). "Theo van Gogh "Bait" Claims New Documentary". NL Times. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
Further reading

Further reading

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