Both were asked if their conversations with Hirsi Ali could have led her to believe the government would keep on protecting her after her move to the US.
Zalm told the judicial hearing that he had done everything in his power to ensure that Hirsi Ali would continue to be protected after she left the Netherlands. He said he repeatedly urged the justice minister and the US ambassador at the time to ensure that the former politician would get security. They said everything would be arranged. And that’s what he told Hirsi Ali, who was extremely worried about her safety.
Nevertheless he made extensive use of his position as minister. His talks with the US ambassador were held in the ministerial office "while enjoying a glass of American whiskey". He used cabinet meetings to approach the justice minister about Hirsi Ali’s security.
When it looked like Hirsi Ali would lose her Dutch passport in 2006 because she had lied about her name during her asylum request in 1992, Zalm asked his ministry’s lawyers for advice on her legal position.
Hirsi Ali continued to be guarded by Dutch security officials when she went to the US in Augustus 2006. But it was never the intention of the Dutch government to do this “indefinitely”, said Zalm yesterday.
The Americans would take over at a certain point, or at least, that was the cabinet expected. But it was not long before Zalm heard from the Dutch justice minister that this assumption was incorrect. According to US law, private individuals are not entitled to permanent security. The cabinet decided it was then up to Hirsi Ali or her American employer to take over responsibility for her security.
Zalm didn't think he did, but said he couldn't really remember. Hirsi Ali must have been aware of the fact, he said. In conversations about her security the phrase “transition agreement” was always used and that implied a temporary period.
Böhler put the same question to the second witness, counter-terrorism chief Tjibbe Joustra. He was responsible for Hirsi Ali's security and had regular discussions about it with her. But at the hearing he could not remember much about them.
Joustra: “I really cannot remember.”
On just one point Zalm and Joustra seemed to have a different recollection of what had
happened. Zalm no longer knows whether Hirsi Ali discovered the US would not take charge of her security before or after she left. Joustra knew it before her departure and Hirsi Ali knew it as well, he said. Even though he had to admit he himself never told her.
Two other witnesses will be heard next Thursday. After those hearings Hirsi Ali's lawyers will decide whether she wants to pursue a court case to demand the Dutch government accept its responsibility for her protection.