Man jailed for plot to kill right-wing Dutch politician over cartoon competition

Geert Wilders targeted after announcing contest to draw prophet Muhammad

Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders: his plan to hold the cartoon competition last year sparked mass demonstrations in Pakistan. File photograph: Michael Kooren/Reuters

Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders: his plan to hold the cartoon competition last year sparked mass demonstrations in Pakistan. File photograph: Michael Kooren/Reuters

 

A 27-year-old Pakistani man has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for planning to murder right-wing politician Geert Wilders in the heart of the Dutch parliament after he announced a competition for cartoons of the prophet Muhammad last year.

The man, named only as “Junaid I”, travelled from France to the Netherlands in August 2018 after posting a message in Urdu on Facebook saying he intended to do everything possible to stop “the dog Wilders” holding the competition – and that he planned to send him “to Hell”.

Unusually, the 10-year sentence handed down by the judges on Monday was harsher than the six years asked for by the public prosecutor because, they said, if the attack had succeeded it would have struck at the country’s “political and constitutional” heart and “caused a wave of fear”.

In a one-sentence tweet in response, Wilders – who has been highly critical of the courts in the past – said simply: “A tribute to these judges . . .”

The plan to hold the cartoon competition last year sparked mass demonstrations in Pakistan and a march from Lahore to Islamabad by some 10,000 protesters calling on prime minister Imran Khan to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.

Cancelled

Wilders, who has 24-hour police protection, cancelled the competition as a result of the protests and a number of death threats, including the one from Junaid I, who was arrested by armed anti-terror police as he arrived at the main railway station in The Hague.

During his trial, Junaid I denied he’d intended to kill Wilders. He said his only aim was to stop the competition. Asked how he explained his Facebook video, he said he’d been “overwhelmed by emotion”.

The judges, however, said they were satisfied that he planned “a terrorist attack on a politician”.

Wilders had been exercising his right to free speech, they said, whereas the defendant planned to prevent that by attacking him in the parliament buildings – “the very heart of Dutch democracy”.

WhatsApp

They pointed out that in one exchange on August 27th, from among a number of Facebook and WhatsApp conversations, someone wrote to Junaid I, “You must kill him”, to which he replied, “I will do that, with God’s will.” This had had “an inflammatory effect”.

The judges said that in their view there was a risk of recurrence because in telephone conversations with his mother from prison, the defendant said he still had the intention of killing the Freedom Party leader.

In a separate court case last month, 20-year-old Afghan Jaweed S, was jailed for 26 years and eight months for stabbing two American tourists in Amsterdam in an attack also provoked by the cartoon competition.