Attorney’s assassination shocks Dutch PM, lawyer groups

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, MPs and lawyers are shocked by the murder of criminal law attorney Derk Wiersum in Amsterdam on Wednesday morning, calling it an attack on the rule of law. "Very disturbing reports", Rutte said to reporters in response to the lawyer's death. Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus is currently being informed about what the authorities know so far. "As soon as any announcements can be made, that will happen", the Prime Minister said. 

Wiersum was the lawyer who represented Nabil B., the key witness that linked wanted fugitive Ridouan Taghi to multiple assassinations. He was gunned down on Imstenrade at around 7:30 a.m. The perpetrator fled on foot. The police are looking for a young man in his late teens, dressed in black clothing with a hoodie. 

Ruling party CDA called Wiersum's murder an "outright attack on our constitutional state", NOS reports. "This is worse than bad", CDA parliamentarian Chris van Dam said on Tiwtter. "A new chapter in the brutality of the drug mafia."

Coalition partner VVD also sees a threat to the rule of law. VVD MP Dilan Yesilgöz compared the assassination to "Italian Mafia practices", speaking to NOS. "This is very socking. This affects the foundation of our constitutional state and should not happen in the Netherlands."

D66 leader Rob Jetten called it a "shocking assassination". "This is an attempt by the underworld to intimidate, to undermine the rule of law. That is completely unacceptable we have to crack down on this. Minister Grapperhaus has to explain." 

The Dutch association of criminal law attorneys NVJSA are shocked by their colleague's death. "Derk Wiersum was a very sympathetic, good and solid colleague. If this is connected to the process, which it seems to be, this would be the umpteenth step in the spiral of violence attached to this process. It is really terrible."

The Dutch Bar Association also said that it is "very shocked". "We sympathize very much with the relatives. And follow the investigation closely", a spokesperson said to the broadcaster. 

In addition to being a criminal law attorney, Wiersum was also a deputy judge at the Zeeland-West-Brabant court. The court is "very shocked", a spokesperson said to Omroep Zeeland. "It is extremely sad."

"I am totally shocked by the assassination of my colleague Derk Wiersum. A friendly and knowledgeable lawyer, but above all a husband and father", lawyer Bart Swier wrote on Twitter. 

"The consequences of this assassination cannot be ignored", lawyer Peter Plasman said to newspaper AD. "Who still dares to represent a key witness? I don't think I would get permission from my supporters, so no, I don't think I would. And that applies to more lawyers, I fear. This is an attack on the rule of law, but safety is simply not guaranteed. That is the superlative." He described Wiersum as "a nice, well-communicating, open personality". "This is a real blow."

"Derk Wiersum was a winner. A very amiable, intelligent, neat, collegiate lawyer. Really awful to hear", criminal law attorney Mark Teurlings said on Twitter. Colleague Sidney Smeets said: "Derk was a nice and smart colleague. Deeply shocked by this terrible news." Lawyer Benedicte Fick told AD that she is devastated and called this a pitch black day. 

Wiersum is not the first lawyer to be murdered in the Netherlands, according to NOS. In 2004, lawyer Machiel Pul was stabbed to death in Doetinchem. The 32-year-old lawyer was representing his murderer's mother in a divorce case. The 18-year-old perpetrator thought his father was being taken advantage of. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on appeal. 

He is also not the first person connected to Nabil B. to be assassinated. B.'s brother Reduan was killed at his Amsterdam business just a week after the Public Prosecutor announced that it made a suspect turned key witness. The authorities later admitted that they misjudged the risks for B.'s family