Van Gogh Murder Suspect Appears in Court

The man suspected of murdering Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (search) in the name of radical Islam limped into court on crutches Wednesday for his first appearance before his trial.

Mohammed Bouyeri (search), 27, took a bullet in the leg during a shootout with police minutes after Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death on a busy Amsterdam street on Nov. 2, a killing that fed mistrust between native Dutch and Muslim immigrants and led to a wave of arson attacks on mosques and churches.

Wearing a skullcap, Bouyeri listened silently to the proceedings, occasionally rubbing his eyes under spectacles and stroking his beard. He did not look at Van Gogh's teenage son or other family and friends sitting several feet away.

Bouyeri, a Dutchman, ignored judges' questions about the murder and instead complained that prosecutors had been careless with facts at an earlier hearing he did not attend.

"I want you to be more nuanced and professional," he said in Moroccan-accented Dutch to prosecutor Frits van Straelen (search).

The killer shot Van Gogh, then cut his throat and pinned a five-page note to his chest laced with religious ramblings and threats of further attacks on politicians.

Prosecutor Van Straelen said DNA, circumstantial and ballistic evidence "all supported the suspicion that it's Mohammed Bouyeri that killed Van Gogh."

The murder letter and a note Bouyeri carried in his pocket saying he expected to die as a martyr were printed on the same printer, Van Straelen said.

Bouyeri has spent several months at a medical clinic where doctors sought to evaluate his mental condition. When asked by a judge why he had refused to cooperate with doctors in the psychological examination, he just stared straight ahead.

"I have said all that I have to say, period," he replied, with a slight stammer.

Van Gogh was an outspoken critic of the treatment of women under Islam — the subject of his last film "Submission." He wrote a weekly newspaper column and hosted a TV talk show that he sometimes used to provoke and insult religious Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians. He targeted people he viewed as overly religious, arrogant or sensitive.

"I'm deeply religious — I worship a pig," he once said. "I call him Allah."

Bouyeri faces charges of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, threatening politicians, possession of an illegal firearm and impeding democracy, and could be sentenced to life in prison. Van Straelen said prosecutors believe Bouyeri acted alone but was supported by others, who may still be charged in the murder.

Bouyeri did not appear at a previous pretrial hearing in January, but instructed his lawyer to say he wanted to "take full responsibility for his actions" without elaborating.

Lawyer Peter Plasman said Wednesday that did not mean Bouyeri had confessed to any crime. He said Bouyeri might make a statement at his trial set for July 11-12.

Prosecutors say Bouyeri belongs to a group of fundamentalists who met with a Jordanian spiritual guide at Bouyeri's house. The guide's whereabouts are now unknown.

Twelve other men accused of belonging to the group were arrested after the killing and are also awaiting trial on terrorism charges. An alleged 13th member, Samir Azzouz, was acquitted earlier this month.

Mainstream Muslim organizations condemned the killing. But Bouyeri is considered a hero by some in the country's poorest immigrant neighborhoods.

Earlier this month, Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner (search) ordered an investigation into whether a white racist movement is growing, after an attack on a mosque led to a brawl between native Dutch and immigrant Turks.

Islamic fundamentalists "started a war on Sept. 11, 2001," said Pen van der Kooi (search), a self-described right-wing nationalist who attended the hearing. "On March 11, 2004, it came to Europe, and on Nov. 2, 2004, it came to the Netherlands," he said in a reference to the bombing of commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004.

"If the Dutch government doesn't get serious, you're going to have more of these kinds of attacks," he said.