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05THEHAGUE2850 2005-10-20 15:05:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 002850 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2015


(b) AND (d)

1. (C) Summary. Dutch prosecutors responsible for
terrorist cases confirmed during an October 17 lunch that the
timing of the arrests of seven terror suspects on October 14
was driven by intelligence information indicating the threat
of an imminent attack; they did not provide details on the
specific threat. They said that while the National
Prosecutors, Office would have preferred to delay the
arrests to permit additional evidence collection, they
understood why the arrests had to be carried out immediately.
They acknowledged that convictions were not assured. The
October 14 arrests bring the total number of suspected
Hofstad Group members facing trial on terrorist charges to
19, 17 of whom are in custody. End Summary.

2. (C) Four key officials responsible for prosecuting
alleged terrorists provided Charge and Embassy officers an
assessment of the prospects for successful prosecution of the
seven Hofstad group suspects arrested October 14 and the
status of Dutch CT legislation. They said the decision to
proceed with the arrests now was based on intelligence
pointing to an imminent attack. Prosecutors did not provide
specifics. Press reports have indicated that discovery of a
videotape in which Samir Azzouz allegedly bid his family
farewell and referred to something "big" he is about to do
played a key role in the timing of the arrests. Asked
whether prosecutors would be able to make the charges against
Azzouz and the others "stick" this time, given that Azzouz
was acquitted of similar charges earlier this year, Thomas
Maan, National Counter Terrorism Prosecutor, said, "We hope
so." He went on to note that terrorism prosecutions are
relatively new in the Netherlands, and consequently, it is
not yet fully clear how much evidence will be needed to
obtain a conviction.

3. (U) The alleged Hofstad group members -- the seven just
arrested and the 12 charged earlier this year -- are the
first defendants to be prosecuted under the provisions of the
August 2004 legislation that made membership in a terrorist
organization and conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack
criminal offenses. Thus, the Hofstad Group trials will help
establish the standards of evidence required in such cases.

4. (C) The prosecutors noted that proof of both "terrorist
intent" and a specific planned attack were required for
conviction. While it is not clear what evidence would prove
"intent," they expressed confidence that establishing
terrorist intent would not be difficult in the case of the
seven. They acknowledged that concrete evidence of a
specific attack planned by the group was thinner than they
would like. Digna van Boetzelaer, team leader for CT and
money laundering cases, confirmed press reports that no
weapons or explosives had been recovered in the raids and
follow-up searches. She and others noted that evidence a
suspect was trying to obtain weapons could be used in
establishing that he or she was planning an attack. The
prosecution would be able to introduce evidence obtained
though wiretaps, as well as surveillance videos, and any data
obtained from computers seized during the raids. They would
not be able to introduce evidence from intelligence sources
(other than wiretaps and surveillance videos) because the
proposed legislation to allow testimony from intelligence
agents without revealing the identity of the source has not
yet been enacted.

5. (SBU) According to Mann, the legislative process
regarding CT prosecutions has not been completed. He
anticipated that passage of pending legislation, including
the bill to permit the use of evidence from intelligence
sources, would facilitate future terror prosecutions. The
prosecutors agreed that the August 2004 law represented a big
step forward in being able to prosecute terror suspects in
the Netherlands.

6. (C) The group was also in agreement that the Hofstad
group was a "homegrown" terror group. Nevertheless, some
members may have contacts with other, transnational groups.
For example, Samir Azzouz is believed to have traveled to
Spain to meet with a Madrid bombing suspect. Most of those
linked to the Hofstad Group are very young; all but one of
those arrested October 14 are between 18 and 24; the other is

30. Van Boetzelaer acknowledged that they do not know for
sure how many more individuals may be linked to the Hofstad
Group, but expressed confidence that they now have the key
leaders, including Azzouz, in custody. Prosecutors expressed
satisfaction with decision by the Rotterdam Court that
Mohamed Bouyeri, the convicted murderer of filmmaker Theo van
Gogh, could be tried along with other Hofstad Group members
as member of terrorist group; this is the first time a Dutch
court has permitted an individual already serving a life
sentence to be tried for an additional crime. Of the 12
suspected Hofstad group members charged earlier this year
with membership in a terrorist organization, two have been
released from jail pending the trial, scheduled to begin in

7. (SBU) Prosecutors who attended were National
Counter-terrorism Prosecutor Thomas Maan; Digna van
Boetzelaer, National Prosecutors' Office Team Leader for CT,
money laundering and war crimes cases; Alexander van Dam, one
of two prosecutors for the initial Hofstad group case; and
Monte van Capelle, Chief Prosecutor, The Hague Court of
Appeals, which will hear any terrorism-related appeals.

8. (U) There has been extensive coverage of the arrests and
background on the alleged Hofstad group members in the local
press. The reports have focused on the alleged farewell
videotape; Samir Azzouz's previous acquittal on similar
charges and the prosecution's appeal of the acquittal
(scheduled to be heard October 13); the Rotterdam court
decision October 17 authorizing the seven to be held in
custody for 15 days pending the filing of formal charges; the
role of the Dutch intelligence service (AIVD) in collecting
information about the group's activities; and the links
between the seven just arrested and the 12 Hofstad group
members already awaiting trial in December.