Pim Fortuyn: Politician's Killer Is Freed Early

Pim Fortuyn: Politician's Killer Is Freed Early

An animal rights activist who assassinated a right-wing Dutch politician is being released after serving 12 years of an 18-year sentence.

Volkert van der Graaf shot dead Pim Fortuyn days before national elections in which the 44-year-old party leader was set to take a large share of the vote.

He was running on an anti-immigration platform that was responsible for reversing the then-progressive Dutch political landscape.

Van der Graaf said he killed Mr Fortuyn because he regarded the politician as a "danger to society" and was worried about the way he stigmatised Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers.

Many of Mr Fortuyn's ideas have since been made policy.

Officials warned last year that Van der Graaf's early release - which was expected to happen on Friday - could reopen old wounds.

There was widespread public anger following openly-gay Mr Fortuyn's assassination in the car park of a television station on May 6, 2002.

Mr Fortuyn had labelled Islam a "backward culture" and called for Dutch borders to be closed to immigration.

But, although his policies seemed at odds with the commonly held view of Dutch culture as open and liberal, they struck a chord with many citizens disaffected with the political establishment.

He was widely seen as the forerunner of Holland's current Freedom Party (PVV), which is led by controversial right-wing politician Geert Wilders.

Van der Graaf's sentence was widely criticised after he was jailed for being too light.

A Dutch justice advisory board said last year that he should be granted a "controlled" early release.

It is normal under the Dutch justice system for criminals to serve two thirds of their sentence before being paroled.

When asked on Friday when Van der Graaf would be released, justice ministry spokesman Jochgem van Opstal told AFP: "It's today.

"But as to the exact time or other details, we're not saying anything for now."

Dutch media said Van der Graaf was expected to be handed over to his family, including his partner and their 12-year-old daughter.

He will not be given a new identity despite fears his whereabouts may be revealed, but he will be "protected", Dutch media reported.

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.