Animal Activist Admits Killing Dutch Politician

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, November 26, 2002 (ENS) - The killing of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn that stunned the Netherlands nine days before last May's election has been solved.

The accused killer, animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf, broke his six month silence last week to tell an investigative judge in the presence of the prosecutor and his defense lawyers that he killed Fortuyn.

Fortuyn

Pim Fortuyn (Photo courtesy LPF)
Offering the first explanation of a motive for the murder, Van der Graaf said he killed the openly gay political leader because he considered Fortuyn a danger to society and thought he was gaining too much power.

According to the prosecutor's statement Friday, Van der Graaf told the court, "he saw in Fortuyn an increasing danger to, in particular, vulnerable sections of society."

The motive had puzzled prosecutors. Van der Graaf is an animal rights activist but Fortuyn had said very little about the environment. The outspoken academic and newspaper columnist, who sought to represent his home city of Rotterdam, gained popularity on an anti-immigration platform.

Charged with premeditated murder, Van der Graaf said he was solely responsible for the murder, and no one else was involved. But under Dutch law, prosecutors must still prove their case, even after a confession.

The right wing Fortuyn, who headed his own infant party, the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF), was fatally shot May 6 outside the Radio 3 FM studio in the Dutch city of Hilversum where he had just done an interview.

According to police, Van der Graaf, 33, was arrested immediately in the radio station parking lot. A gun was in his possession and his trousers were splattered with Fortuyn's blood. He has been held in jail ever since.

Before the murder, Van der Graaf worked at the Milieu Offensief (United Environmental Offensive) as an animal rights activist. He was opposed to intensive agriculture and against the raising of animals for fur. Members of the organization told police that Van der Graaf was good in handling environmental court cases for the group.

After Fortuyn's death, the May election handed his three month old LPF a great deal of power for a fledgling party. It won 26 seats, becoming the second largest party in the Netherlands. A three way coalition with the VVD Liberals, the Christian Democrats, and the LPF was formed.

But the coalition broke apart in October due to friction between LPF ministers, insiders say. New elections are set for January 22, 2003.

The court has ordered Van der Graaf to undergo psychiatric tests before his trial, which is expected to start in February 2003. He faces a possible life imprisonment for premeditated murder, a sentence not often meted out in the Netherlands.