Dutch court asked to detain would-be jihadist in psychiatric hospital

‘Not mentally competent’ Muslim man (24) wants to fight in Syria

A court in the Netherlands has been asked to incarcerate a 24-year-old mentally vulnerable Muslim man in a psychiatric hospital to stop him travelling to Syria to become a jihadist fighter against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to a psychiatric assessment handed by the public prosecutor to the court in Rotterdam, the man – known only as “Mohammed G” – is “not mentally competent”.

He currently takes medication to treat his condition, which would almost certainly deteriorate if he were freed to travel.

The court was told that without the medication Mohammed G heard voices, including a voice he believed to be that of a dead Muslim warrior that instructed him to fight in Syria. More than 100 young Dutch men and women have travelled to fight in Syria and at least five of them have been killed since 2011.


Counter-terrorism law
What is most controversial about this case is that not just that Mohammed G has been prevented from leaving because of his alleged psychiatric condition, but that he has been charged with "planning an act of terrorism" under a previously defunct counter-terrorism law.

The legislation was introduced a decade ago in response to concerns that young Dutch Muslims might travel to al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan, but has since lain unused on the statute books and has never formed the basis for a conviction.

However, the public prosecutor’s office now admits that Mohammed G’s is being regarded as a test case to see whether the same law can be revived and used against jihadists planning to fight in Syria – effectively jailing them to prevent them from leaving the country.

Counsel for the public prosecutor told the court that anyone planning to engage willingly in the violent conflict in Syria was doing so with the clear intention of fighting and killing, arguably murdering, to achieve his political ends. This, he contended, could be classed as a terrorist offence.

He revealed that police had been alerted to Mohammed G by the domestic intelligence service, AIVD. Although planning an act of terrorism would normally carry a prison sentence on conviction, in this case the prosecution was requesting only one year in a psychiatric institution.

He said experience showed that if they survived, those who took part in the fighting in Syria were frequently traumatised and disorientated by the experience – and as a result posed a greater threat to the security of the Netherlands when they returned.

Judges said they wished to see more detailed psychiatric and psychological evidence, particularly in relation to whether or not Mohammed G was mentally competent during the time he was planning his trip to Syria. They adjourned a decision until October 2nd, pending these new reports.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court