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Van Gogh trial paints a troubled picture

Proceedings expected to last less than a week

AMSTERDAM — The trial of Mohammed Bouyeri, accused of murdering filmmaker Theo van Gogh, began Monday in a courthouse in Amsterdam known as “the Bunker” amid some of the tightest security ever seen in the Netherlands.

Trial is expected to last less than a week as Bouyeri, 27, has admitted to shooting and stabbing Van Gogh on Nov. 2 and has waived the right to a defense.

He also is accused of the attempted murder of police officers and illegal possession of weapons and could face life imprisonment.

Bouyeri, a Muslim, was allegedly angered by Van Gogh’s short film “Submission,” which featured an actress with script from the Koran written across her naked body.

Van Gogh was an outspoken critic of Islam, and “Submission” caused widespread alarm in the Muslim community. Van Gogh and Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who scripted the film, received numerous death threats after the film was shown on TV. Hirsi Ali is still under police protection.

Slaying shook the film community and the Dutch public and caused the country to question its centuries-old tradition of religious tolerance.

Trial is closed to the public, which has sparked criticism of the courts. Supporters of Pim Fortuyn, a politician with radical views on immigration who was assassinated in 2002, lined up in front of “the Bunker” for the first day of testimony.

Van Gogh’s fictional film “The Sixth of May” linked a conspiracy between the Dutch secret services and U.S. business interests with the slaying of an anti-immigration politician modeled on Fortuyn.

With the opening of the trial, the mood in the Dutch film community was one of resolve, said Carolien Croon, director of the Netherlands Assn. of Feature Film Producers. “Many of Theo Van Gogh’s friends worked in the film business and for them this is a difficult but also an important time in that there is finally going to be some resolution.”

Several projects are on the front burner related to Van Gogh’s work, including Dutch pop icon and actress Katja Schuurman’s recently announced documentary on his life.

Theo Van Gogh was a direct descendant of the brother of 19th-century painter Vincent Van Gogh.

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