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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Fortuyn's foes named in lawsuit
Police arrest an unidentified suspect outside the Media Center in Hilversum, Netherlandsap
The lawyers say they are not trying to blame journalists for Fortuyn's murder
Lawyers representing the late Pim Fortuyn have launched a legal suit against several politicians and journalists who criticised the anti-immigration populist.

It's pretty ironic when you consider that Mr Fortuyn greatly enjoyed his own right to criticise others

Marjolein van Spaandonck
Union of Journalists
Mr Fortuyn asked his lawyers to start preparing a suit before he was assassinated earlier this month.

Three politicians and a string of journalists from major Dutch papers who linked Mr Fortuyn with fascism and racism are named in the suit.

They are accused of inciting hatred against the politician and of "contributing to the build-up of an atmosphere of hostility against him".

"This is an attack on the freedom of speech, quite simply," Marjolein van Spaandonck of the Dutch Union of Journalists told BBC News Online.

"And its pretty ironic when you consider that Mr Fortuyn greatly enjoyed his own right to criticise others."

'Intelligence of Hitler'

Those accused include Thom de Graaf, the leader of Democrats 66, Bas Eenhorn, the chairman of the conservative VVD, and Rob Oudkerk of the Labour Party.

Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn hated being compared with France's Le Pen
In statements and speeches, the three allegedly linked Mr Fortuyn with figures such as Hitler and Mussolini, as well as the head of the Dutch Nazi Party, Anton Mussert.

Matty Verkamman from the Trouw newspaper meanwhile described Mr Fortuyn as a "a man with the intelligence of Hitler and the charm of Heinrich Himmler", while the commentator Marcel van Dam also linked the politician with Nazism.

The entire editorial board of the daily NRC Handelsblad is being sued for a comment piece which stated that "we want to keep xenophobes and racists as far away from us as possible".

Before his murder, Mr Fortuyn decried the Dutch establishment and media for portraying him as a racist and a holder of illiberal views, outraged by suggestions that his views on immigration and foreigners mirrored those of France's Jean-Marie Le Pen or Austria's Joerg Haider.

It was simply the case, he argued, that the Netherlands was a "full country" and that many Muslim immigrants who had settled there had failed to integrate and accept Dutch values.

He lambasted Islam as a "backward" culture because it failed to accept homosexuality or treat women as equals.

It is unlikely that Mr Fortuyn's lawyers will win, experts say, given that press freedom is protected by the Dutch constitution.

"But there is a feeling in the public that the media was somehow to blame for Mr Fortuyn's death," say Ms Van Spaandonck.

"And increasingly journalists are afraid of criticising him, or the ideas he has left behind him. It's becoming a new taboo."

See also:

15 May 02 | Europe
Holland steps into the unknown
14 May 02 | Europe
Inquiry into Fortuyn's security
13 May 02 | Europe
Fortuyn party soars in polls
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