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Netherlands: Few Terror Suspects Actually Convicted

(June 16, 2009) According to figures from the public prosecutors' department in the Netherlands, very few of the suspects arrested in that country for alleged acts of terrorism since September 11, 2001, have been convicted of the crime. This contrasts with the figures for the 260,000 ordinary criminal cases tried in the country each year, half of which go to court; of those, 90 percent are ultimately sentenced. (Netherlands: 44% of Terrorism Suspects Charged, 13% Convict
, ISLAM IN EUROPE website, June 9, 2009, available at

The Netherlands adopted a separate law for terrorist offenses in 2004. Although prosecutors had brought 113 terrorism cases by the end of 2008, a sentence was imposed for a terrorist offense in only 27 of them. Furthermore, that number reflects only conviction in the court of first instance; some were acquitted on appeal. In some cases, suspects have been arrested and released without being charged, perhaps even repeatedly. Those cases were also not considered in the prosecutorial data. (Id.) A spokesman for the prosecutors' office explained the low conviction rate by pointing out the differences between terrorism cases and ordinary criminal cases, stating, “[i]n ordinary cases, you first quietly gather evidence. With terrorism, you do not have that time. The focus is on preventing a possible attack.” (Id.)