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Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Fortuyn killer's sentence upheld
Volkert Van der Graaf
Van der Graaf said he wanted to protect the "vulnerable" in society
An appeal court in Amsterdam has upheld the 18-year prison sentence given to the killer of the populist Dutch anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn.

Animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf, 33, confessed to shooting Fortuyn in an assassination that shocked Dutch society in May last year.

Van der Graaf said he killed Fortuyn because he thought he was a threat to the "weaker" groups in society, like immigrants and animals.

He was originally sentenced to 18 years in jail at his trial in April.

But the prosecution and the defence both appealed against the sentence on opposite grounds: one said it was too short, the other that it was too long.

Pim Fortuyn
Dutch people were stunned by Fortuyn's murder
Van der Graaf's lawyers argued that his sentence was too severe, since Dutch courts usually jail defendants convicted of a single murder for 12 to 16 years.

Only 21 life sentences have been handed down in the past 50 years, generally for serial murders.

But prosecutor Inger van Asperen de Boer said in the appeal that Van der Graaf should serve life in prison because the murder was politically motivated and was an assault on freedom of speech.

Fortuyn's murder, just nine days before a general election, changed the political landscape in the Netherlands.

His party, the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF), is now in opposition after being part of the previous coalition.

Fortuyn gunman spared life term
15 Apr 03  |  Europe
Fortuyn party set for comeback
14 Apr 03  |  Europe
Profile: Fortuyn killer
15 Apr 03  |  Europe
Fortuyn killer beset by doubt
31 Mar 03  |  Europe
Rise and fall of Fortuyn's party
16 Oct 02  |  Europe

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