9 IS terrorists convicted in Dutch court

  • 11/12/2015

A Dutch court has convicted six men of belonging to a network recruiting young Muslims to join the Islamic State jihadist group, handing them jail terms of up to six years.

Three other defendants received lesser sentences for other terror-related charges including a woman, who was jailed for seven days for posting a message on social media deemed as incitement.

"The criminal organisation aimed to incite and recruit 'brothers' to travel to fight in Syria and financed them to that end," Judge Rene Elkerbout said at a heavily-fortified courthouse on the outskirts of Amsterdam on Thursday (local time).

The complex 190-page verdict was handed down in a landmark case that experts say tested the boundaries of religious freedom and freedom of expression in the Netherlands, known for its tolerant values.

Eight men and one woman initially faced several charges including "belonging to a terrorist organisation", incitement to commit acts of terror, recruiting youngsters to join IS and undergoing military training in Syria.

The recruitment process took place through a "constant process of ideological ripening" which the judge said targeted vulnerable and impressionable youngsters, particularly in Schilderswijk, a poor, working-class neighbourhood of The Hague's inner city.

The suspects were arrested last year in a massive police probe into jihadist activities in Schilderswijk, once a traditional Dutch working class area, now inhabited by second and third-generation immigrants mainly of Moroccan and Turkish descent.

Public prosecutors said the group "formed a criminal and terror organisation".

"They all had different roles and eventually contributed to the aims of the organisation," prosecutors said in a statement.

A three-judge bench agreed and sentenced the main defendant 33-year-old Azzedine Choukoud - whom they referred to as "the driving force" behind the group - to six years in jail.

Two other men, aged 24 and 26, were tried and sentenced in absentia to six years in jail. Both are believed to be fighting in Syria.

Three others who formed part of the network were sent to prison for between five and three years, including Oussama Chanou, 19, whom prosecutors said was the group's "spiritual leader" and Rudolph Holierhoek, 25, dubbed the network's "media man".

Choukoud's lawyer Andre Seebregts denounced the sentences after the hearing as "very, very high".

"This is round one, there is a good chance that we will ... appeal this," he told reporters outside the courtroom.