Suspect again confesses to Utrecht mass shooting in first hearing, denounces laws, judges

24 Oktoberplein shooting in Utrecht
The scene of a shooting on the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht. 18 March 2019photo: Politie

Gokmen T. again confessed to being responsible for a mass shooting on a tram in Utrecht and killing four people during the first pro-forma hearing in the case against him on Monday. He also denounced the Dutch legal system. "I don't recognize your laws, I don't recognize your judges", he said in the court in Utrecht on Monday morning, according to AD reporter Yelle Tieleman, tweeting live from the courtroom.

On March 18th a man opened fire on a tram on 24 Oktoberplein. A total of four people were killed, three died on the day of the shooting, and the other a week later. Suspected gunman Gokmen T. was arrested hours after the incident. He confessed to the shooting and told the authorities that he was working alone. The 37-year-old man is facing charges of murder or manslaughter with terrorist intent, attempts thereto, and threats with terrorist intent. 

There is a great deal of evidence that this attack had a terrorist motive, the Public Prosecutor said in court. A note found in T.'s getaway car read, among other things: "I do this for my faith. You kill my fellow believers." This is the first time the content of this note was revealed. T. also had handwritten text on the silencer of the gun he used. This is noteworthy, because the right-wing extremist perpetrator of attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New-Zealand, also had handwritten text on his firearms. That attack happened three days before the mass shooting in Utrecht. 

T. also made similar statements during questioning, the Prosecutor said. He said things like: "I don't let anyone mock our faith. I want to show that you are not diamond, and we are not sand. If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all to Allah. I will not let anyone stop our faith." When the court asked why he opened fire on the tram on 24 Oktoberplein, he said "You don't want to understand me. Who are you to kill Muslims? Every day 100 or 150 Muslims are killed."

There is security camera footage of the shooting in the tram, the Prosecutor revealed. "These images are too intense to allow at a public trial." An animated reconstruction will therefore be used instead in the trial. 

The Prosecutor also explained why Gokmen T. was free on March 18th, while various criminal cases were still pending against him. His pre-trial custody was suspended a few days before the mass shooting. "If it had not been suspended, this horrific crime would not have happened on that day, 18 March. That thought must be unbearable for the bereaved", the Prosecutor said. "But there were no signs that the suspect would commit such a crime as the shooting in the tram. He was known as an annoying person, a revolving-door-criminal, but there were no sings that he was radicalizing."

The suspect did not want to attend this hearing, but the court ordered him to do so. Over the next two months, his mental state will be examined in the Pieter Baan Center. The next proforma hearing is scheduled for September 23rd​. The actual trial is expected to start early next year, likely in January.

T. said in court that he also does not want to attend the next hearing. When hearing this, the father of a 19-year-old woman killed in the mass shooting shouted at him: "Coward! Coward! You're a pig!"

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