Americans who worship the criminal justice systems of Our Betters in Europe should take a long look at the slap-on-the-wrist sentence passed on the Netherlands' first political assassin since World War II.
Volkert van der Graaf, 33, shot candidate Pim Fortuyn, 54, five times at point-blank range nine days before the May 2002 Dutch election. Fortuyn was polling in second place. He might have become prime minister, if van der Graaf hadn't decided to settle the election with a gun.
Last week, a three-judge panel (there are no jury trials in the Netherlands) sentenced van der Graaf to 18 years in prison, with the expectation that he'll be released after serving 12 years.
The judges rejected the prosecution's bid for a life sentence because, they said, van der Graaf deserves a second chance to rejoin society. The judges also disagreed with the prosecution's contention that the assassination was an "attack on democracy," when it clearly was a violent attack on an election.
"What do you have to do to get a life sentence?" Fortuyn supporter Patricia Houdkamp complained to the Independent of London newspaper.
Some American newspapers have dubbed Fortuyn a "right-wing politician" -- which may have made his murder more palatable to some readers. Others tagged Fortuyn as "anti-immigrant." The one-note taglines don't tell the story, however. Fortuyn was a outspoken homosexual activist who wanted the Dutch government to pay more attention to the common man. Fortuyn also referred to Islam as a "backward religion," which he saw as a threat to Dutch's liberal attitude toward women and gays, and hence advocated a moratorium on immigration.
Van der Graaf used the immigration issue as a warm-hearted excuse for his cold-blooded deed. He compared Fortuyn to Adolph Hitler, charged that Fortuyn "abused democracy" and asserted that Fortuyn was scapegoating Muslims -- the "weak side of society" -- for self-aggrandizement.
Figure a man who would commit murder can't be expected to be above misrepresenting his politics. The fact is, the "weak side" van der Graaf chose to kill for are critters.
Fortuyn had supported re-legalizing the breeding of animals for fur. Van der Graaf, The Associated Press reported, was working up to 80 hours a week against commercial animal farming. On his website, van der Graaf called Fortuyn a threat because of his support for pig farming and fur breeding. Van der Graaf is an extremist who killed a human being to protest bacon.
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