Nazi arsonist convicted

Searchlight - July 2006

On 13 April, a Rotterdam court convicted the nazi activist Ben van der Kooi to 30 months in jail for an arson attack on a mosque in June last year. The evidence against him included CCTV footage of him cycling along the street where the mosque is located with a can of petrol. Van der Kooi's attack took place only days after the fascist National Alliance (NA) demonstrated against the mosque.

Five days after the fire, there was a public event organised by former List Pim Fortuyn minister Hilbrand Nawijn and the Belgian extremist Vlaams Belang leader Philip Dewinter at the late Fortuyn's Rotterdam house to launch a rightist "think-tank".

Also present was van der Kooi, who attends every right-wing meeting in Rotterdam. Unable to keep his mouth shut, he told a woman at the event that it "was heavy to carry the petrol. I didn't do it alone, I had a man looking out. It went very quickly".

Soon afterwards, the woman recognised van der Kooi when the police televised pictures from the night of the arson attack and reported van der Kooi's remarks at the meeting to the police along with the information that van der Kooi was also planning to blow up the new mosque in Rotterdam.

Police surveillance then caught van der Kooi and cycling on the same bike as on the CCTV footage, as well as hurling, together with another NA- activist, a bag of clothes into a container.

The clothes and shoes in the bag were found to smell of petrol and contain van der Kooi's DNA. In addition, there were blue paint stains his coat (the same paint that had been used to daub "White Power" signs) on the mosque and which was also found on the wall of the cellar of van der Kooi's home. Besides all this damning evidence, his handwriting was recognised by a Fortuyn follower in Rotterdam who handed over a document signed by van der Kooi to the police.

Despite the proof stacked up against him, van der Kooi insisted on his innocence. The court judge was not convinced and commented in his verdict that "In the judgment of the court on the presented evidence, the suspect's statement that he was not the person seen cycling on camera footage has to be seen as a deliberate lie to cover up the truth that he burned the Djama Mashid Shaan-e-Islam mosque".

Following van der Kooi's arrest, his party, the NA, denied any involvement and distanced itself from the arson attack, clearly afraid of possible legal consequences.

Later, however, the NA recovered and unhesitatingly supported van der Kooi, declaring that he was innocent, was convicted by a "left-wing fascist court" and that he is a "victim of a witch hunt against nationalists'.

NA members, meanwhile, also started to threaten and intimidate witnesses who gave evidence, together with the group Friends of Pim Fortuyn, and have put their addresses and phone numbers on their web forum.

As a result, several witnesses even tried unsuccessfully to withdraw their statements out fear of fascist intimidation and attack.

A remarkable aspect of the van der Kooi case has been the deafening silence of both Leefbar Rotterdam and Nieuw Rechts of which he was also a member or at least a prominent activist.

Van der Kooi has appealed against his conviction but some questions remain unanswered: who were van der Kooi's accomplices? Why does he continue to claim to have been at the house of NA boss Jan Teijn, who denies this claim? The van der Kooi case is not over by any means.

That van der Kooi's conviction has not cramped the NA's style was shown when the party staged a tiny 30-strong march in Amsterdam on 27 May.

The populist issue the fascists picked up this time was the shutdown of the paedophile club Martijn. During the morning of the NA demonstration, anti-fascists occupied the NA's redirection point and then doused some of the fascists with paint. Sixteen anti-fascists were arrested but the NA was only able to march through the former Jewish neighborhood, ringed by police and watched by a police helicopter.

Two weeks before the NA parade, Arnhem played host to the Austrian new right Darkwave band Allerseelen. Despite being warned about this group's support for the racist idea of a "Europe for the European peoples", the concert hall's management let the band play.

The concert showed a parade in the 120 strong audience (half of them German) with Thor Hammer badges and jewellery, Death in June T-shirts, SS Death's Head symbols and brown shirts all being flaunted. Allerseelen singer Gerhard Petak, however, claims he never saw any of this stuff.

Finally, members of the Dutch branch of the international nazi web forum Stormfront tried to held a meeting in Utrecht on 6 May, the anniversary of Pim Fortuyn's murder 4 years ago. The nazis were confronted by about 30 anti-fascists who managed to persuade the police to ship the assembled mob of nazi boneheads and racist gabbers by train to nearby Hilversum.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht