The man who killed flamboyant far-right Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn more than a decade ago could be freed as early as May.
Volkert Van der Graaf, 44, is serving an 18-year sentence for the 2002 murder of the outspoken and openly gay Fortuyn, an act that shattered the liberal Netherlands’ image of itself as a unified and secure society.
Van der Graaf “can be freed on parole from May 2,” junior Justice Minister Fred Teeven told journalists, after rejecting freeing him in October as he still “posed a threat to public order.”
A Dutch justice advisory board said last year that Van der Graaf should be granted a “controlled” early release, as the best way to reintegrate and prepare him for an eventual return to society.
Van der Graaf is eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence and had asked the state to rule on his request to push forward his release date.
“All the advice and enquiries indicate the same thing, that there’s little chance of re-offending,” Teeven said.
Van der Graaf will have to report to authorities once a week and wear an electronic ankle tag. He will not be allowed to go to Rotterdam, the city where Fortuyn was a politician, or to Hilversum, where he was killed.
Officials warned last year that Van der Graaf’s early release could reopen old wounds, given the widespread public anger that followed Fortuyn’s assassination in a television station car park on May 6, 2002.
Van der Graaf shot the hugely popular Fortuyn, 54, in the head days before elections in which the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF) party was expected to make major gains on the back of an anti-immigration ticket.
The animal rights activist said he killed Fortuyn because he was worried about the way he stigmatised vulnerable groups, including Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers.
Widely seen as the forerunner of today’s Freedom Party (PVV) of controversial rightwing politician Geert Wilders, Fortuyn called Islam a “backward culture” and called for Dutch borders to be closed to immigration.
PVV members have been leaving the party over the last week as part of a backlash against Wilders for leading a chant for “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands.