Judges will decide next week if nine young men from Eindhoven should remain in custody while police continue to investigate them for possible terrorist offences.
The nine were, according to the public prosecution department, planning to launch a terrorist attack, and prime minister Mark Rutte and far right leaders Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet were said to be the potential targets.
The NRC reported on Friday that the security service AIVD was tipped of about the group in March when one of them, named as Marwan M, rented a garage storage space to turn into a gym because sports centres remained closed.
His initiative was praised online, but according to the public prosecutor, one of the men saw the pop up gym as a way of training for violent jihad. That, the paper said, triggered the investigation.
The men were arrested in September after they were heard to talk about killing Rutte, Wilders and Baudet while watching an action film together.
All but one were born in the Netherlands and several have have university and college degrees. They are, the NRC said, nothing like the disadvantaged youngsters who make up most Dutch terrorist suspects. And, their lawyers have argued repeatedly, their talk of shooting politicians was nothing more than bad taste bravado.
They were religious, one former university colleague said of two Turkish brothers who are among the nine arrested. ‘But they were just good natured guys,’ he told the NRC.
Marwan M, whom is considered to be the ringleader, set up the Salaam Islamic students organisation while studying at Eindhoven University of Technology. In interviews he spoke about how Salaam ‘wanted to build a bridge’ between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The current head of Salaam told the paper that M was a ‘modest and decent’ man.
The nine who come from the same part of Eindhoven do have links to orthodox Imams and some were involved in a Facebook group which counter terrorism unit NCTV said in 2019 had organised readings which were in line with extremist thought.
Nevertheless, concrete evidence against them remains thin, according to reports in the Dutch press. Several homes were searched in the raids last month but police did not find any weapons or explosives.
How seriously judges take the evidence against the nine will become clear at next week’s remand hearing, the NRC said.
‘If the garage was a secret training camp for jihad, why would you put a video about it on Facebook?’ one friend asked the paper.
The remand hearing will take place on Tuesday, the NRC said.
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