Dutch court keeps suspects in custody over reporter shooting

4,000 roses and a sign reading "Attack on the Freedom of Press", where put on Dam Square in support of attacked journalist Peter R. de Vries in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Friday, July 9, 2021. De Vries' condition remains "unchanged" since the Tuesday night July 6 attack and two men suspected in the shooting of the celebrated Dutch crime reporter are facing a hearing in Amsterdam on Friday. The attack raised concerns around Europe about journalists' safety and media freedom. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
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Associated Press

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Two men suspected in the shooting of a celebrated Dutch crime reporter appeared in court Friday and were ordered to stay in custody for another two weeks, while doctors were still fighting to save the journalist’s life in an Amsterdam hospital.

Peter R. de Vries was shot in the head while walking to his car after a Tuesday night television appearance. The attack on de Vries, known for courageous reporting on the Dutch underworld, raised concerns around Europe about journalists’ safety and media freedom.

His condition has remained “unchanged” since the shooting, according to a statement from his family. A ceremony in de Vries’ honor was held Friday afternoon at Amsterdam’s Westerkerk church, which welcomed visitors to lights candles and to observe a moment of silence. Some 4,000 white roses were heaped in his honor at the Nationaal Monument nearby, with a sign reading “Attack on Freedom of the Press.”

Dutch police said the suspected shooter is a 21-year-old Dutchman, and a 35-year-old Polish man living in the Netherlands is accused of driving the getaway car. They were arrested not long after de Vries was wounded.

Heavy security ringed the Amsterdam District Court for Friday’s hearing. The court said in a statement that “there are currently sufficient objections and grounds to keep the two men in pre-trial detention.” They were ordered held for another 14 days while the investigation continues.

No motive for the attack has been disclosed. “We are running through several scenarios and are working with all our might to find out what the role of the suspects is and who else might be responsible,” said police spokesperson Sarah Tillart.

De Vries reported on the country’s most infamous crimes, from the 1983 kidnapping of a Heineken heir to his investigation into the 2005 murder of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway while she was on holiday in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba.

Most recently, he had been serving as an adviser and confidant to a witness in a major trial of alleged drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi. Taghi and 16 others are on trial over a series of murders, including the 2016 killing of a crime blogger who had reported on Taghi’s alleged criminal activities.

According to Dutch daily newspaper de Telegraaf, the 21-year-old suspect is the cousin of a member of Taghi’s organization who is serving a 13-year prison term for orchestrating a series of assassination attempts against rival gang members.

Taghi’s lawyer said her client was not involved in the journalist’s shooting.

“There has been a flood of reports in the media about who is responsible for this terrible event. However, my client Ridouan Taghi has been referenced without any objective substantiation,” lawyer Inez Weski said in a statement Tuesday.

Two people linked to the witness de Vries was advising were killed in recent years — the witness’ lawyer and his brother.