The defendant, 38-year-old Gokmen Tanis, was not in court to hear the verdict due to restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “The suspect spread death and destruction in broad daylight in a tram in Utrecht,” said presiding judge Ruud van Veldhuisen.
Tanis stepped into the tram, then “pulled out a pistol with which he, while shouting the name of his god, Allah, shot at innocent passengers in cold blood. Not once, but many times in just over two minutes,” the judge added.
He said the terror attack sent shock waves through the central city of Utrecht and the rest of the Netherlands. Tanis did not answer questions during his trial and was repeatedly removed from court for insulting judges, his lawyer and families of victims.
Tanis walked onto a tram in Utrecht on March 18, 2019 and used a pistol with a silencer attached to shoot passengers at close range. He then jumped out of the tram and shot a driver sitting behind the wheel of a car.
Three people in the tram were killed and the man in the car died of his injuries more than a week later. The attack, which happened just days after the massacre at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, sent the historic university city of Utrecht into lockdown as police hunted for the gunman. He was detained hours after the shooting.
Prosecutors said the silencer was adorned with texts referring to Islam that forensic tests later established were written by Tanis. He also left a note in a stolen getaway car that said in Dutch: “I’m doing this for my religion. You kill Muslims and you want to take our religion away from us, but you won’t succeed. Allah is great.”
However, witness statements cited at trial described him as a part-time Muslim who veered between strictly observing the religion and drinking, gambling and taking drugs.