Edition 28 June 2018, by Lorre Luther
In the last week of May, a judge ruled Volkert van der Graaf, the man who shot and killed politician Pim Fortuyn, will no longer be required to meet with the parole department in order to comply with the rules of his conditional release. Nine days before the Dutch national election, on May 6, 2002, Van der Graaf shot Fortuyn, head of the Pim Fortuyn List political party. The assassination took place in a parking lot outside FM3’s studio in Hilversum. The politician had just completed a radio interview and was walking to his car when the murder occurred. Later that day, the police took Van der Graaf into custody. He was still in possession of the murder weapon at the time of his arrest.
In 2003, a judge sentenced Van der Graaf to 18 years in prison for Fortuyn’s murder. He was paroled in 2014 after serving two thirds of his sentence. At first, the court ordered check-ins with the probation department every 3 weeks. This frequency was later reduced to once every 6 weeks. Van der Graaf’s recently petitioned the court to alter the conditions of his release. He expressed a desire to emigrate from the Netherlands and sought release from courtimposed reporting requirements in order to facilitate his departure. The reporting requirement, according to Van der Graaf, blocked his plans to leave the country permanently. The details of his emigration plans are unknown. The judge reviewed reports by the parole department and the Dutch Institute for Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology (NIFP), as part of the decision making process. The NIFP report concluded Van der Graaf has a low risk of committing further crimes and does not suffer from mental illness. Both reports indicated little would be gained by continuing to demand frequent check-ins with the parole department. In coming to a decision, the judge did not consider the circumstances of the murder. The ruling was based on an evaluation of Van der Graaf’s chances of committing further crimes.
Fortuyn’s surviving family members and his former driver, Hans Smolders, are concerned that this is nothing but legal maneuvering on the part of Van der Graaf. They assert he has no intention of actually emigrating and that the request was nothing more than a shrewd attempt to escape supervision. “Van der Graaf said he wanted to emigrate, but if he doesn’t actually go, it means, in reality, two years off his sentence,” says Richard van der Weide, an attorney speaking on behalf of the Fortuyn family. Smolders, who witnessed the 2002 murder, was openly disappointed with the outcome. “This is a completely unfathomable decision that’s bad for people’s trust in the rule of law. Millions of people are following this case and are emotionally involved. And then someone like him gets told he’s right.” He also doubts Van der Graaf truly intends to leave the Netherlands. “These are part of his well-known legal games. It’s yet another victory for him. Nowhere does it say that he has to leave.”
Even though Van der Graaf no longer has to report to probation officers on a regular basis, he remains on conditional release with legally imposed demands and limitations. According to the rules of his release, he may not speak with media outlets or contact Smolders or the Fortuyn family. He must also refrain from committing any new criminal offenses. Violation of any of these conditions could result in a judge revoking his parole and sending him back to prison for the remainder of his sentence.