Life in prison for mass shooting in Utrecht tram

Investigators at the scene of a mass shooting in a tram on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht, 18 March 2010
Investigators at the scene of a mass shooting in a tram on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht, 18 March 2010PolitiePolitie

The court in Utrecht found Gokmen T. guilty of opening fire on a tram in Utrecht last March, killing four people. He was sentenced to life in prison on Friday. The sentence is equal to what the Public Prosecutor demanded.

He was found guilty on four counts of murder or manslaughter with terrorist intent, three counts of attempted murder or manslaughter, and threatening 17 people with terrorist intent, the court said.

Only a handful of survivors and family were allowed in court when the verdict was read, due to rules around the coronavirus. T. was not in court during the conclusion of the case. Throughout the days-long trial, he was repeatedly removed from the courtroom, for spitting at his court-appointed lawyer, and for making snide comments at a victim, among other things.

At 10:43 a.m. on 18 March 2019, T. opened fire on a tram on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht as it was pulling away from the stop. The attack lasted two minutes and nine seconds, and in the end, four people were killed and multiple others were injured including two who were critically wounded. T. was arrested later that same day after an hours long manhunt. He confessed to the shooting multiple times.

"According to the court, neither a reduced prison sentence nor the maximum sentence does justice for the nature and seriousness of the crimes committed. Also from the point of view of retribution and security of society, a reduced prison sentence with [psychiatric treatment] is insufficient. Moreover, with a life sentence, the court wants to prevent others from committing such crimes," the court said in a statement.

The court also rejected the argument from T.'s attorney that a life sentence contravenes European human rights laws because his client, he said, was suffering from a personality disorder and had a diminished mental capacity. "The court does not agree with this because the Dutch system provides for a reassessment, which can lead to a reduction in life imprisonment," the court stated.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, most lawsuits in the Netherlands have been postponed. Only the most urgent are still continuing, and then with as few people in the courtroom as possible. Among the urgent court cases were the case against T. and the case against the first four suspects in the downing of flight MH17. 

The victims of this mass shooting were commemorated with a minute of silence in Utrecht on Wednesday. Due to restrictions in place to curb the spread of coronavirus Covid-19, the public commemoration had to be canceled.