Dutch stop paying for Islam critic's U.S. security
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government said on Thursday it would no longer pay for protection abroad for outspoken Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who left for the United States in 2006 saying death threats made her life unbearable.
Somali-born Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian, returned to the Netherlands this week to discuss her security arrangements, sparking a heated debate about whether the Dutch ought to pay for her bodyguards abroad.
In a letter to parliament, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said the government had funded Hirsi Ali's security for an interim period after she began work at a think-tank in the United States, and had even extended this period twice.
Dutch authorities had a responsibility to protect state officials and those believed to be at risk, Hirsch Ballin said.
"In stepping down as a Dutch member of parliament, Ms Hirsi Ali's status changed. Since this time she has no longer served in an official function for the Dutch state," he added.
The government had informed Hirsi Ali in December 2006 that funding for her security, costing 2 million euros (1.38 million pounds) per year, would be withdrawn from mid 2007.
Hirsi Ali initially protested through her lawyer, Hirsch Ballin said, adding that the government had held regular discussions with U.S. authorities to assess her situation.
Media reports say she now intends to fund her protection herself.
Hirsi Ali is a high-profile and controversial figure in the Netherlands, where her comments that Islam is "backward" upset many among the country's one million Muslims.
In November 2004, film director Theo van Gogh, who made a film with Hirsi Ali in which she accused Islam of condoning violence against women, was murdered by an Islamist militant. He stabbed a note to Van Gogh's body warning Hirsi Ali she would be next.
She became one of a handful of Dutch public figures, including anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, to live under constant armed guard because of death threats.
A row in 2006 over revelations she had lied to gain asylum in the Netherlands indirectly led to the fall of the Dutch government. A small party withdrew from the governing coalition after threats by the then immigration minister to revoke her passport.
According to an opinion poll released this week 80 percent of the Dutch public supported the government's decision to cut off funding as long as she remained in the United States.
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