Volkert van der Graaf, born in Harderwijk in 1970, has been an environmental activist for many years and as such he made several appearances on news programs in the Netherlands. Apart from that, he was pretty much unknown until May 6, 2002 when he shot and killed right wing politician Pim Fortuyn.
According to a short online autobiography (which was taken offline shortly after the killing), Volkert van der Graaf had been a member of the WWF Rangers as a child. He had enjoyed fishing as a child, but in time he started to feel sorry for the fish and he stopped. He had felt that the harming of animals was wrong and thus he stopped eating meat as well. In 1988 he attended the Agrarical University in Wageningen. Little is known of his life prior to that.
Since October 1994, Volkert van der Graaf has been the treasurer for the Vereniging Milieu Offensief (Roughly translated: the environmental offensive society)
where he fought legal battles against corporations and farmers over toxic emission permits, amongst other things. Van der Graaf was very succesful at this at first, because many corporations and farmers did not go through the proper procedures to obtain those permits and many municipal governments failed to notice this.
If a company was prepared to pay a settlement for the court case that was large enough, Milieu Offensief took it and used the money to buy emission permits themselves, thus blocking the opportunity for others to buy the permit and actually emit toxic gasses.
In the year 2000, Van der Graaf said that he was planning to stop his legal actions against farmers and take on the people that cause damage on a bigger scale. He also says:
"I just have a basic norm: what is happening in the bio-industry just isn't right. I am just being rational about this. I don't have to love animals to protect them.
Many environmentalists act from the point of view that all of nature is good, but the darker sides in human nature can also be observed in nature. "To protect animals is to civilise humans", they say."
On May 6, 2002, Van der Graaf was arrested for the shooting and resulting death of right wing politician Pim Fortuyn. His motivations for shooting were related to the facts that Foruyn's party was set to win the elections and that they were planning to remove some of the restrictions on the environmental laws in the Netherlands.
As far as the authorities know, Van der Graaf never committed any violent actions before. In the light of the shooting of Fortuyn, police will reopen investigations into the mysterious and unsolved death of a municipal official in the city of Harderwijk, with whom Van der Graaf had dealings prior to his death. Striking detail: German television has video images of Van der Graaf asking Pim Fortuyn for an autograph in front of Fortuyns house!
During a court hearing regarding the future of Dutch mink farming, Van der Graaf did imply accidentally that he had been involved with the nightly freeing of minks from several Dutch mink farms. Several such actions have occurred in the Netherlands over the past few years. More often than not, these freeings resulted in the death of most minks because their survival rates are close to nil in the local ecosystem.
(Update: August 10, 2002)
Volkert van der Graaf is being held in the Amsterdam based correctional facility commonly known as the "Bijlmer bajes", where he awaits trial while under heavy surveillance. At the initial hearing, authorities revealed an overwhelming amount of evidence against Van der Graaf.
- Police found detailed maps of the media park, a non-public area where the shooting took place, in Volkert's car, which was parked nearby.
- Volkert was carrying a semi-automatic Firestar handgun when the police caught him. Forensics confirmed that the gun was the one that killed Pim Fortuyn.
- The gun contained one Luger 9 mm round. Six other rounds had been fired from the gun. The shells were found next to Fortuyn's body. At Volkert's house police found a box of similar bullets with exactly seven rounds missing.
- Forensic detectives found blood spatter and cellular material from Pim Fortuyn all over Volkert's clothes and on the gun he was carrying.
- Several witnesses saw him shoot Fortuyn from close by. A few of them chased him all the way from the shooting to the place where he got arrested.
In addition, police found cellular material on the gun that could not be linked to Van der Graaf or to Pim Fortuyn. It could be linked to another homicide committed in 2001. Police are still investigating wether there is a connection.
Van der Graaf is currently on hunger strike. The official reason for this is that he is protesting against constand infrared camera surveillance in his cell. Some speculate that it is an elaborate way to commit suicide. Volkert has signed a contract early on stating that he does not want to receive force feeding if his condition becomes critical. The Dutch government force fed a RAF-terrorist in the 1980's when his condition became critical. They justified this by stating that the man was mentally unfit to refuse the feeding. Since Van der Graaf signed the statement early on, this argument cannot be used against him.
Van der Graaf's condition is remarkably well under the circumstances. He actually gained weight. Physicians say that this is due to the fact that Van der Graaf is a vegan. He continues to drink juices and, apparently, his vegan lifestyle caused his metabolism to be well adjusted to these conditions. At the time of this update, he is in the 49th day of his strike.
Petra L., Van der Graaf's girfriend was arrested last week on suspicion of engagement in illegal activity. Aledgedly, she was preparing an attack on an unknown target using explosives. She was however released a few days later.
(Update: August 29, 2002)
Volkert broke off his hunger strike after authorities promised to allow him more privacy during visits.
This writeup will be redone completely once the trial is over. For the time being, I will just add updates now and then.