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Prosecutor v. Mohammed G.

Court District Court of Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Case number 10/960233-12
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 23 October 2013
  • Prosecutor
  • Mohammed G.
Categories Terrorism
Keywords Murder, Attempted Travel, Syria, Foreign fighters, Preparatory Acts
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This is the one of the first cases in Europe in which a person was tried for attempting to travel to Syria to join the jihad. Mohammed G., a 24-year old Dutch national, made several preparations for his departure; he booked an airplane ticket from Amsterdam to Gaziantep (Turkey), he packed his suitcase and expressed his support for the jihad multiple times. The District Court of Rotterdam found Mohammed G. not guilty of preparatory acts for and/or the committing of terrorist crimes. However, it did find the defendant guilty of preparatory acts to commit murder. According to the Court, these acts had to be seen ‘within the framework of terrorism’.

The defendant suffered from a psychotic disorder, meaning that he suffered from hallucinations in which he heard a voice in his head ordering him to take action within the framework of jihad. On the basis of this fact, the Court found the defendant not criminally responsible and acquitted him. Instead, the defendant was ordered to spend a year in a psychiatric hospital.

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Related developments

In his subsequent trial, the defendant was found guilty of seeking to obtain for himself or for others the opportunity, means or information for the commission of serious crimes (art. 96 of the Dutch Criminal Code (DCC)). The serious crimes concerned arson and/or causing explosions (art. 157 DCC) and/or murder (art. 289a DCC) and/or manslaughter (art. 288a DCC). All these crimes were committed with terrorist intent (art. 83 DCC).

The Court held that the defendant was in a state of partially diminished responsibility due to the poor development of his mental capacities. The Court sentenced the defendant to a 3-year prison sentence and imposed a hospital order (TBS) (para. 17). Although a hospital order was not strictly necessary according to the psychological report, the Court held that there was a causal relationship between the defendant’s poor mental capacities and the chance of recidivism, and thus nevertheless chose to impose this order (para. 13).

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Legally relevant facts

  • The defendant had saved money for a stay abroad and had cancelled the rent of his apartment in Utrecht, the Netherlands (p. 7)
  • The defendant had booked airplane tickets for a flight from Amsterdam to Gaziantep (via Istanbul) and had packed a suitcase (p. 7)
  • The defendant was planning to travel to Syria, to join the armed struggle against the Assad regime and to help found the Islamic State (p. 10)
  • Two psychiatrists have separately concluded that the defendant suffers from a psychotic disorder (pp. 8-9)
  • The defendant suffered from hallucinations in which a voice ordered him to take action within the framework of jihad (pp. 8-9)
  • Both psychiatrists concluded that the defendant could not be considered criminally responsible (p. 9)

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Core legal questions

  • What acts amount to preparatory acts for and/or the committing of terrorist crimes?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Art. 134a Dutch Criminal Code
  • Art. 289 Dutch Criminal Code

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Court's holding and analysis

The Court annulled parts of the summons (both for the primary indictment and the subsidiary indictment) that were insufficiently clear and precise (pp. 2-4).

With regard to the primary indictment, the Court could not establish that the actions undertaken by the defendant (in brief: booking airplane tickets and packing a suitcase) amounted to preparatory acts for and/or the committing of terrorist crimes pursuant to art. 134a DCC (p. 7).

With regard to the subsidiary indictment, the Court was able to establish that the defendant was guilty of preparatory acts to commit murder pursuant to art. 289 DCC. Booking airplane tickets and packing a suitcase should be seen as premeditation, as the defendant expressed multiple times that he wished to travel to Syria to participate in the armed jihad and discussed the matter with others (p. 7). The defendant, for example, said that all those who fight against the mujahideen in Syria deserve to be decapitated (p. 7). Although the Court thus established that the defendant is guilty of preparatory acts to commit murder, it noted in addition that these acts should be seen within the framework of terrorism (p. 10).

The Court concurred with the psychiatrists’ report that the defendant could not be held criminally responsible. Therefore the defendant was acquitted from prosecution. The Court ordered the defendant to spend a year in a psychiatric hospital (p. 11), with the aim of convincing him of the necessity to take medication for his psychiatric disorder (p. 10). 

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Further analysis

•C. Paulussen, ‘The Syrian Foreign Fighters Problem: A Test Case from The Netherlands’, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 2 December 2013.

•E. Bakker, C. Paulussen and E. Entenmann, ‘Dealing with European Foreign Fighters in Syria: Governance Challenges and Legal Implications’, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, December 2013.

•C. Paulussen and E. Entenmann, ‘National Responses in Select Western European Countries to the Foreign Fighter Phenomenon’, in: A. de Guttry, F. Capone and C. Paulussen, Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2016, at pp. 410-412.

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Instruments cited

Dutch Criminal Code (DCC)

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Related cases

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Additional materials

‘Dutch court sentences would-be Syrian rebel fighters’, Al Jazeera, 23 October 2013.

‘Eerste Syriëgangers veroordeeld voor voorbereiding jihad’, NRC, 23 October 2013.