Man, 44, jailed for planning terror attacks on Muslims

A 44-year-old man who plotted to carry out terrorist attacks on Muslims has been jailed for three years by a court in Zutphen. The court was told Vincent T had set up a Facebook group with the aim of 'combating Muslims' and had tried to recruit members and get hold of weapons online. He also planned to 'blast off leftwing leaders', naming television presenter turned politician Sylvana Simons as a potential target. The AIVD security service said it believed that T planned to put his words into action. He had also searched under terms such as 'killer for hire' and information about making bombs on the internet, the AIVD said. 'His active hunt for weapons and being in possession of nearly 2,000 bullets means T had past the phase of being a 'keyboard terrorist', the court said in its ruling. T is being held in the maximum security prison in Vught. The Dutch counter terrorism unit NCTV said last month there has been a rise in right wing extremism in Western Europe as a whole but the situation in the Netherlands is not yet as serious as in the early 1990s. In the Netherlands, far right violence is usually unorganised and involves small groups who don’t feel the need to be part of a known organisation, the NCTV says. According to official figures, there were 45 cases of far-right violence in the Netherlands in 2016, the most recent figures in the report.  More >

MPs plan to cut alimony from 12 to 5 years

MPs are working on their own legislation to cut the number of years divorced couples have to pay alimony from 12 to five years. A majority of MPs back a reduction because, they say, too many people - usually men - are supporting exes who are quite able to work or who have sufficient income. The measure is also important to emphasise equality between men and women, MPs say. The new legislation, if it goes ahead, would come into effect in 2020 and would apply to all divorces from that date. There would, however, be exceptions for couples married for more than 15 years, for couples with children under the age of 12 and for partners nearing retirement age. The three Christian parties in parliament all oppose the measure. Kees van der Staaij, leader of the fundamentalist Protestant SGP, said the plan assumes that all women with children will go out to work full time. And ChristenUnie MP Stieneke van der Graaf said that the law ignores the fact that many women work less and take care of the children. 'The choices people make during marriage have consequences for both of them after that marriage,' she said. MPs will vote on a motion to draft new legislation next week. Child support payments would not be affected by the plans.  More >

City birds need breeding places: CBS

Garden bird populations in cities are struggling but are doing better in the countryside, national statistics office CBS and bird monitoring organisation Sovon Vogelonderzoek have found. Populations of 13 out of 20 species which have traditionally made the city their home, such as the sparrow, jackdaw and blackbird have been falling since 1990, the figures show.  However, blue tits, house martins, great tits, green finches, goldfinches and song thrushes are increasing in number outside the urban areas. ‘Once upon a time humans took over the birds’ territory and initially some species adapted to that very well. But cities are becoming a less accommodating environment for birds,’ Sovon researcher Albert de Jong told the Volkskrant. ‘The falling number in garden birds in cities and the increase in the countryside are two separate processes,' De Jong said. 'Many birds have a very territories. The sparrow, for instance, spends his whole life within a range of one kilometre from where he was born.’ The reasons for the dwindling populations are fewer eggs, fewer chicks reaching maturity and lower life expectancy. Among the possible causes are changes to building methods. ‘ A starling or a sparrow could make its nest under a roof tile but with better insulation those days are gone,’ the Volkskrant quotes CBS researcher Cor Pierik as saying. Shrubberies Another reason for the dwindling garden bird numbers is that cities are increasingly built up. There is a lack of open areas in cities for birds to feed and gardens are paved or grass put in instead of shrubberies. ‘It may be maintenance poor but it is not a good environment for birds such as the tailed tit and the dunnock, which like to breed in thick undergrowth,’ De Jong told the paper. Possible solutions to the problem include provisions for birds in new builds, such as a ‘sparrow hotel’, i.e. a row of nesting boxes attached to the façade, and ‘fly in holes’ for swifts.  More >

Postdoc conned by fake ministry official

An international researcher at Groningen University has been conned out of nearly €3,000 by someone posing as an employee of foreign affairs ministry, the Northern Times reported on Friday. Manas Das, a postdoc from India working at the faculty of science and engineering, was threatened with deportation by someone claiming that his paperwork was not in order. 'I took out all my money because I thought it was a threat to my family. I’m living here with a small kid and my wife,' he told the website. He was told to hand over the money in the form of gift cards for Steam, an online gaming platform. Das told the website he has an appointment with the Groningen police on Monday to file a formal complaint. He said he had decided to go public about the con in an effort to stop other people falling into the same trap. Similar scams involving phone numbers mirroring legitimate Dutch government agencies have been reported by foreign professionals across the Netherlands over the past year. Have you received one of these calls? Please get in touch via in strictest confidence.   More >

Mayor warns Project X partygoers

The mayor of a small Dutch town has warned youngsters that they may end up in jail if they turn up for a Project X party on Saturday night. Parents, said Cuijk mayor Wim Hillenaar, should make it clear to their children that a night in a Brabant police cell 'is not the nicest way to spend time', and that being arrested could impact on the rest of their lives. The mayor issued the warning after a 15-year-old girl in the neighbouring village of Katwijk placed an open party invitation on Snapchat, which was copied and placed on Facebook as Project X Katwijk. The posting went viral, with some 8,000 people indicating they would turn up at the party and a further 18,000 interested in going. The invitation has since been removed from social media. Katwijk is a village of just 600 people, situated on the banks of the river Maas. Police say they are taking all possible scenarios into account in order to guarantee the safety of locals. A similar incident took place in Haren in Groningen in 2012. Over 100 people were arrested when a girl advertised her 16th birthday party online and it became a mass internet hype. The bill for damages topped €1m.  More >

Wardens get new jobs after cull refusal

Two of the four wardens at the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve have been moved to new duties after refusing to take part in the cull of 1,800 deer. The Volkskrant reported on Friday that the two object to shooting dead healthy animals and requested a transfer. One also reported getting death threats because of his job, but said that was not the reason to move. On Thursday the final legal obstacle to the mass cull was removed when judges in Lelystad threw out objections against the shooting permits. Three nature organisations had gone to to court in an effort to have the permits ruled illegal, saying the noise of the shooting would disturb birds, including sea eagles. Today's ruling means there are no more legalities stopping the cull which, the forestry commission said, may start next week. The shooting will take place on weekdays and will depend on a variety of factors, including the weather and where the animals are at the time. The agency aims to shoot 20 animals a day, which means it will take at least three months to complete the cull.  More >

Me Too is an issue in parliament as well

A survey among parliamentary staff has shown that seven women have been subjected to sexually intimidating behaviour and that their complaints had been ‘100% badly handled,’ the NRC reported on Friday. The survey, conducted in a reaction to the MeToo movement, took place in September and comprised questions about workplace experiences, including some on sexual harassment. In total, 300 out of 415 civil servants participated in the survey which did not cover MPs or party workers. Five out of the seven cases involved a colleague or superior and two an ‘external’, which can mean anyone from a politician to a person visiting parliament. The exact nature of the abuse was not specified although the report said it mainly referred to touching and sexual innuendo. A further 33 workers complained about being threatened or aggression, 22 said they had been bullied and 18 had faced discrimination. ‘We know people find it difficult to report abuses and we see from the results that these complaints are badly handled,’ works council chairman Ton van der Zee told the paper. Parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib has said the results of the survey will be taken into account but has not specified any measures to be taken. Investigation A straw poll conducted by the paper shows political parties are not in a hurry to investigate the personal safety, sexual or otherwise, of their staff. Of the parties which promised to investigate possible sexual transgressions only GroenLinks has so far conducted and concluded a review. The other parties said they were either preparing a review or not conducting one at all. Two cases of alleged sexual intimidation made the headlines recently. One involved VVD MP Han ten Broeke who stepped down as a result of having had an ‘unequal’ relationship with a member of staff. The other concerned a GroenLinks member of staff who was fired for accosting an intern. From 2020 all ministries will be obliged by law to report breaches of personal integrity, the NRC said.  More >