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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 17:03 GMT
Fortuyn suspect admits murder
Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn was a controversial figure
A man accused of murdering Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has confessed in court to carrying out the crime.

Volkert Van de Graaf's dramatic admission came on the first day of his trial in Amsterdam.

"I acknowledge that I am responsible for the shooting and killing of Mr Fortuyn," Mr Van der Graaf told the court.

He had committed the crime, he said, because the anti-immigration Mr Fortuyn posed an ever-increasing danger to society.

The politician was shot outside a radio station on 6 May last year - just over a week before a general election.

Volkert Van der Graaf
(The idea) was never concrete until the last moment, the day before the attack
Volkert Van der Graaf
Mr Van der Graaf, a 33-year-old animal rights activist from the Dutch region of Zeeland, was arrested minutes after the shooting.

Mr Van der Graaf told the court that the murder had been a spur-of-the-moment attack.

"(The idea) was never concrete until the last moment, the day before the attack," he told the court.

He described hiding behind bushes for nearly two hours, waiting for his Mr Fortuyn to emerge from the radio studio.

"I walked in the direction of the entrance with the gun in my right pocket, wrapped in a plastic bag," he told the court.

"I walked around (Fortuyn) and shot him," he said.

Mr Fortuyn, he said, was an "ever-growing danger who would affect many people in society".

You destroyed the Netherlands, you took away a great leader
Court heckler
"He used the weak groups in society to score points with the electorate and seemed to be successful and gained power from this," said Mr Van der Graaf.

"I could see no other option than to do what I did." Mr Van der Graaf's courtroom appearance was his first since his arrest shortly after the murder.

People in the public gallery of the courtroom jeered as Mr Van der Graaf was asked to confirm his name.

"You destroyed the Netherlands, you took away a great leader," one woman cried.

Mr Fortuyn's death is the only political killing in the country's recent history and the case is generating intense public interest.

As the trial began, the prosecutor added two more charges - threatening Mr Fortuyn's driver with a weapon and possession of weapons and ammunition.

Mr Van der Graaf admitted both offences.

Prosecutors' claims

Prosecutors said in November that Mr Van der Graaf had confessed to the crime, after maintaining nearly seven months of silence.

"He saw in Fortuyn an increasing danger to, in particular, vulnerable sections of society," prosecutors said.

"He was concerned about Fortuyn's prejudiced political views and the incendiary way [he] presented them and the substantial political power [he] seemed to be gaining."

TRIAL SCHEDULE
Thursday: Prosecution case
Monday: Court hears results of psychiatric tests
Tuesday: Defence case
Suspects are not asked to make a formal plea in trials in the Netherlands.

The flamboyantly gay Mr Fortuyn shattered the consensual, liberal image of Dutch politics with his anti-immigration views and assertion that Islam was "backward".

His murder prompted a surge of sympathy and anger, and in the election that followed, his party Pim Fortuyn List (LPF) experienced a shock success, coming second in the vote.

But the three-way governing coalition that followed fell apart in under three months as a result of LPF infighting.

In the ensuing election in January, the party lost two-thirds of its parliamentary seats and is expected to return to opposition when the new government is formed.

The trial, in a high security court nicknamed The Bunker, is expected to last three days.

If found guilty, Mr Van der Graaf faces life in prison.


SEE ALSO:
Fortuyn murder hearing opens
09 Aug 02 |  Europe
Obituary: Pim Fortuyn
06 May 02 |  Europe


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