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Netherlands: Terrorist Cases of PKK, Hofstad Group Adjudicated

(Oct. 15, 2008) On October 8, 2008, the Den Bosch district court in The Netherlands dismissed charges of terrorism against 16 alleged members of the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Workers' Party), a militant Kurdish separatist movement that has fought for two decades for a separate state that would include part of southeastern Turkey. The 16 had been arrested in 2004, along with a number of other persons, at a suspected terrorist training camp on a farm in the southern part of the Netherlands.

Public prosecutors contended that the accused were members of a criminal organization that was planning to carry out terrorist acts. The defense team argued for dismissal of the case on the ground that Dutch attorneys were unable to interview key witnesses in Turkey – including former PKK militants and government officials—because the Turkish government allowed only written questions from the attorneys. The Dutch court held that as a result there could be no fair trial. The reason why the Turkish authorities refused to allow the interviews remains unclear, the Dutch newspaper NRC HANDELSBLAD reported. (PKK Case Dismissed in Dutch Court, NRC HANDELSBLAD, Oct. 8, 2008, available at

On October 2, in an unrelated terrorist case, it was reported that an appeals court in The Hague had increased the prison sentences of four Islamic radicals, allegedly members of the so-called Hofstad group, by convicting them of the additional charge of membership in a terrorist organization. One defendant had his prison term doubled from four years to eight; another's was increased from four years to six. The ringleader received an increase of one year to his eight-year sentence; the fourth party's sentence was increased from three years' imprisonment to four. The court was cited as stating that the basis for the re-convictions was the defendants' “adherence to a single belief system, their training with firearms, and their coordinated efforts to find the addresses of Dutch politicians on a hit-list, including [that of] the prime minister.” (Extended Prison Sentence for Four Terror Plotters, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 2, 2008, available at

The Hofstad network is comprised mainly of second-generation Muslim immigrants from North Africa and has reportedly been responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in The Netherlands between 2003 and 2006, “including the assassination of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh.” (Lorenzo Vidino, The Hofstad Group: The New Face of Terrorist Networks in Europe, 30:7 STUDIES IN CONFLICT & TERRORISM 579-592 (July 2007), available at