Amsterdam city council has denied that the late mayor Eberhard van der Laan was involved in a ‘secret’ campaign to stop the city’s Muslim youth becoming radicalised.
The idea for the campaign, drawn up by city anti-radicalisation advisor David Kenning, was ‘never more than a plan’, acting mayor Eric van der Burg said in a letter to the council ahead of Thursday’s debate on the issue.
Van der Burg was responding to councillors’ demands for an update, following media reports about the scheme, which led to the dismissal of a close aide of the mayor. This weekend, Elsevier magazine and the Parool newspaper published claims that Van der Laan had commissioned a secret ‘grey campaign’ featuring an actor posing as a young Muslim man who published vlogs about his struggles.
In his letter to councillors, Van den Burg said the mayor dropped his support for an anonymous campaign after discussing it with the police and public prosecution department. He did, however, give Kenning the green light to work the plan out in more detail.
After watching a couple of vlogs, the mayor pulled the plug on the idea because the role of religion in radicalisation did not come sufficiently on board. The plan was then dropped and there was no need to inform the full council about it, Van der Burg said.
The statement does not go into details about the sacking of anti-radicalisation specialist and civil servant Saadia Al T, who worked on the project.
AL T, whose parents’ home was raided by police investigating her on fraud and bribery claims, is taking her claim for unfair dismissal to court in December.
According to a reconstruction of events by the NRC, Al T may end up not facing any charges and may have been made a scapegoat.
‘By losing Saadia’s network, we know a lot less about what is happening in terms of radicalisation,’ her former manager Lisa Scheerder told the paper. ‘It has become more dangerous in the city.’