Man remanded in custody on suspicion of killing Dutch populist Fortuyn

Associated Foreign Press/May 8, 2002

A 32-year-old animal rights activist was remanded in custody by an Amsterdam court on suspicion of murdering Dutch far-right leader Pim Fortuyn, a court spokeswoman told AFP.

"The judge felt there were sufficient grounds to keep the suspect in custody," said spokeswoman Mercedes Grootscholten.

The man has not been formally charged as the murder investigation is still ongoing, she added. The court refused to confirm the identify of the suspect, who has been widely named as Volkert van der Graaf.

A spokesman for the prosecutor said earlier that the prosecution intends to charge the suspect with murder.

According to press reports, Van der Graaf is a vegan animal rights activist who fights against fur and factory farming. He may have taken issue with Fortuyn's plans to lift an incoming ban on fur farming in the Netherlands.

The daily De Volkskrant reported Wednesday that van der Graaf and his environmental organisation Milieu Offensief (Environmental Offensive) had been linked to the murder of a municipal environmental official in Nunspeet in the central Netherlands.

Flowers and cards meanwhile continued to pile up in front of Fortuyn's elegant villa in central Rotterdam and in the parking lot in the town of Hilversum where he was gunned down on Monday.

Thousands of people from all over the Netherlands have come to lay flowers or sign books of condolences.

The killer walked up to Fortuyn in the parking lot outside a radio station in broad daylight and shot the politician five times in the neck, head and chest.

The murder, which occurred just nine days before legislative elections in which Fortuyn's party was expected to make a significant showing, shocked the Netherlands.

The 54-year-old former sociology professor became a new star on the Dutch political scene when in March he propelled his far-right group from nowhere to win more than a third of the seats on Rotterdam's city council.

In next week's poll, his anti-immigrant platform had been expected to win 20 of the 150 seats up for election, an unprecedented showing for an extremist right-wing platform in this traditionally open-minded country.

But despite Fortuyn's strong anti-immigrant rhetoric, most Dutch were appalled at his killing, a bombshell in a country proud of its long legacy of tolerance.

In the confusion and shock after the killing, the Dutch government had considered postponing the election but Prime Minister Wim Kok decided Tuesday that the May 15 poll would go ahead as scheduled.

The political parties competing in the elections all halted their campaigns after the murder and all debates have been cancelled.

Fortuyn's body is to lie in state in the Rotterdam's cathedral on Thursday ahead of the funeral set for Friday, which Kok and the leaders of most leading political parties are expected to attend.

Fortuyn will be laid to rest in the small town of Driehuis on the northwestern Dutch coast. He is to be buried in a family grave in a private ceremony, a spokeswoman for his party told AFP.

The body will probably be moved later for re-burial in the far-right leader's vacation home in Pordemone in the north of Italy, she added.

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