Jewish World Review April 21, 2003 / 19 Nisan, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
Tilting at justice
AMERICANS who worship the criminal justice
systems of Our Betters in Europe should take a long
look at the slap-on-the-wrist sentence passed on the
Netherlands' first political assassin since World War
Volkert van der Graaf, 33, shot candidate Pim
Fortuyn, 54, five times at point-blank range nine days
before the May 2002 Dutch election. Fortuyn was
polling in second place. He might have become prime
minister, if van der Graaf hadn't decided to settle the
election with a gun.
Last week, a three-judge panel (there are no jury
trials in the Netherlands) sentenced van der Graaf to
18 years in prison, with the expectation that he'll be
released after serving 12 years.
The judges rejected the prosecution's bid for a life
sentence because, they said, van der Graaf deserves
a second chance to rejoin society. The judges also
disagreed with the prosecution's contention that the
assassination was an "attack on democracy," when
it clearly was a violent attack on an election.
"What do you have to do to get a life sentence?"
Fortuyn supporter Patricia Houdkamp complained to
the Independent of London newspaper.
Some American newspapers have dubbed Fortuyn a
"right-wing politician" -- which may have made his
murder more palatable to some readers. Others
tagged Fortuyn as "anti-immigrant."
The one-note taglines don't tell the story, however.
Fortuyn was a outspoken homosexual activist who
wanted the Dutch government to pay more attention
to the common man. Fortuyn also referred to Islam
as a "backward religion," which he saw as a threat to
Dutch's liberal attitude toward women and gays, and
hence advocated a moratorium on immigration.
Van der Graaf used the immigration issue as a
warm-hearted excuse for his cold-blooded deed. He
compared Fortuyn to Adolph Hitler, charged that
Fortuyn "abused democracy," and asserted that
Fortuyn was scapegoating Muslims -- the "weak side
of society" -- for self-aggrandizement.
Figure a man who would commit murder can't be
expected to be above misrepresenting his politics.
The fact is, the "weak side" van der Graaf chose to
kill for are critters.
Fortuyn had supported re-legalizing the breeding of
animals for fur. Van der Graaf, the Associated Press
reported, was working up to 80 hours a week against
commercial animal farming. On his Web site, van der
Graaf called Fortuyn a threat because of his support
for pig farming and fur breeding. Van der Graaf is an
extremist who killed a human being to protest bacon.
Van der Graaf, testified, the Times of London
reported, "Normally, I find it morally reprehensible to
kill someone." Normally?
When the prosecution asked him if what he did was
acceptable, van der Graaf answered, "At the time, I
thought it was. Now I'm turning the question around
in my head." Well, that should be a short journey.
This killer showed only the pretense of remorse, yet
the Dutch judges pronounced van der Graaf as
unlikely to kill again.
"There are a whole lot of Europeans who would
disagree vehemently with that opinion and would
sentence that guy to life in prison immediately,"
Hoover Institution fellow Dennis Bark noted.
True, but those aren't the voices leading the
European Union herd. Readers are aware that the
Netherlands, like all EU countries, has no death
penalty. But you may not know that the EU issued a
policy paper that criticized life sentences and called
for "moving toward keeping imprisonment to an
absolute minimum." Van der Graaf's minimal
sentence is in the spirit of the EU ideal.
The Dutch have imposed 21 life sentences in the last
half century -- usually for unrepentant, high-profile,
serial killers. Van der Graaf is just an unrepentant,
high-profile, political killer -- who murdered a man and
A Fortuyn partisan told the Guardian, "Fortuyn was
killed for his ideas -- think about that."
Fortuyn was killed for his ideas, and his killer will be
set free because of a judicial philosophy that fails to
consider the consequences of setting violent people
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