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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Van Gogh suspect refuses defence
Mohammed Bouyeri
Mr Bouyeri was arrested shortly after the killing
The man charged with the murder of the controversial Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh has refused to offer a defence at the start of his trial in Amsterdam.

Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, said he did not recognise the authority of the court and spoke only to confirm his name and utter a prayer in Arabic.

Prosecutors say Mr Bouyeri killed Mr Van Gogh in a ritualistic murder committed in the name of radical Islam.

The November 2004 murder shocked the Netherlands and raised ethnic tensions.

Mr Bouyeri, who has dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, could face a life sentence if he is convicted.

A note spiked into Van Gogh's body carried threats against his co-author, Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. An outspoken critic of Islam, she wrote the script for his short film Submission, which offended many Muslims.

Mr Bouyeri is also accused of the attempted murder of bystanders and police, and obstructing the work of Ms Hirsi Ali. She went into hiding after Van Gogh's death.

Revenge attacks

Mr Bouyeri appeared in a special high-security courtroom in Amsterdam clutching a copy of the Koran. His lawyer told the court there would be no defence case put forward by Mr Bouyeri or on his behalf.

The death of Theo has left a big empty space in our family that will never be filled
Theo van Gogh's sister Josien

The head judge said that the trial would go ahead nonetheless. There will be no summing up in the trial, which is expected to last two days.

Mr Bouyeri was arrested following a shoot-out with police, just minutes after Van Gogh had been shot several times and stabbed.

The prosecution said Mr Bouyeri had hoped to die a "martyr" at the hands of the police.

Rudolph Peters, a professor of Islamic Culture at Amsterdam University, told the court that letters and other writings by Mr Bouyeri showed he had become radical more than 18 months before the killing.

He appeared to be a hardline Muslim who saw himself as an "instrument of God", Mr Peters said.

The judge read out transcripts of police recordings of Mr Bouyeri, who is said to have told his younger brother: "I knew what I was doing, and I succeeded. I swear to God, if there were a death penalty, I would be begging for it."

'Empty space'

Van Gogh's mother and sister both made an emotional address to the hearing.

His mother Anneke van Gogh said: "After the death of our son it became clear that writing and images are dangerous, they can get you killed."

Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh
Theo Van Gogh was a well-known critic of Islam and multiculturalism

The film-maker's sister Josien said: "The death of Theo has left a big empty space in our family that will never be filled... we hope that Bouyeri will get the highest possible sentence, but we are the ones who got a life sentence on 2 November."

The murder sparked a wave of revenge attacks on mosques and counter-attacks against Christian churches in the Netherlands.

Police are holding about a dozen suspected Islamist radicals said to be associates of Mr Bouyeri in the so-called "Hofstad" group.

They will go on trial accused of being in a criminal organisation and planning to kill prominent politicians.

Watch footage from the crime scene

How van Gogh's murder has shaken Netherlands

Dutch step up Muslim protection
08 Nov 04 |  Europe
Life of slain Dutch filmmaker
02 Nov 04 |  Entertainment

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