A Dutch postman who fought in the civil war in Syria after converting to Islam is facing a six-year jail sentence if he returns to the Netherlands.
The trial of Victor D. got under way in Rotterdam on Tuesday without the suspect, who left his home town of Heeten, near Deventer, five years ago to join an islamist militia. In May he published a video online shot in an olive grove to show he was still in Syria, in response to media reports that he had been seen at a Dutch mosque.
The 30-year-old is accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation and training to be a terrorist in a conflict zone. The public prosecution service has asked for a six-year prison sentence to be imposed.
D. told RTV Oost that he would consider returning to the Netherlands to serve his sentence, which could allow him to be released after four years. ‘I can’t give a definite yes or no answer. I need more time to think about it and talk to my family, friends and those close to me.’
D. said the proposed sentence was less than he had expected. He previously said he had gone to Syria ‘not to sow death and mayhem but to lend a helping hand to the Syrian people.’
Extradite or die?
The prosecution wants the court to send D. to prison so they can start extradition proceedings. However, some political parties, including Geert Wilders’s anti-Islam PVV, argue he should be banned from returning to the Netherlands. Prime minister Mark Rutte said two years ago that he would rather foreign fighters ‘died’ in Iraq or Syria than return home to carry out potential terrorist attacks.
On Tuesday, in a separate case, two Dutch nationals who were convicted in Turkey of terrorism offences were flown back to Schiphol. Reda Nidalha, from Leiden, and Oussama A., from Utrecht, initially fought for Islamic State but later deserted and joined the Free Syrian Army. In May they were given six-year jail sentences for belonging to a terrorist organisation.
Ferry van Veghel, a prosecution lawyer specialising in terrorism offences, told RTV Oost earlier this month that the department was in favour of bringing suspected terrorists back to stand trial in the Dutch courts.
‘It should be made very clear that even if people commit serious offences at a distance of several thousand kilometres, Dutch law still applies to them and they can still be prosecuted,’ he said.
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