Dutch journalist de Vries fights for life after assassination attempt

Deported underworld figure previously rejected accusations reporter was on a hitlist

A Dutch investigative reporter, who was a prosecution witness in the trial of an alleged gangster, is seriously ill after he was shot five times in a late-night attack on an Amsterdam street.

Peter R de Vries had left a television studio on Tuesday when he was shot in an ambush. The celebrity journalist claimed in the past to have seen his name on a hitlist for an underworld gang.

The police said there had been arrests after the overnight incident and suspects would appear in court on Friday. A third man detained in relation to the case has been released.

De Vries had recently been advising the key prosecution witness in the trial of Ridouan Taghi, an alleged underworld crime boss who was deported from Dubai to the Netherlands to face charges. In 2019 Mr Taghi made a public statement denying reports he had threatened to have Mr de Vries killed.

Mr Taghi, once Europe's most wanted man, was arrested at a luxury villa by Dubai Police two years ago after a joint operation with authorities in the Netherlands. He was deported to stand trial for murder.

"Officers arrested two men suspected of being directly involved in the shooting incident," they said on Wednesday.

"It concerns a 35-year-old man with Polish nationality living in Maurik and a 21-year-old man living in Rotterdam. The two suspects will be presented to the examining magistrate on Friday.

"During the evening house searches were carried out in Tiel, Maurik and Rotterdam. Various data carriers and ammunition were seized there."

Officials rushed to pay tribute to de Vries and the city leader gave a short update on his situation. "He was seriously wounded and is fighting for his life," said the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema.

"He is a national hero to us all. A rare, courageous journalist who tirelessly sought justice."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the attack "shocking and incomprehensible. It was an attack on a courageous journalist and also an attack on the free press that is so critical to our democracy".

De Vries, 64, is known for his work uncovering underworld cases, most notably the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken.

He won an international Emmy Award for his work investigating the disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005.

Mr Taghi, 43, is presently on trial accused of ordering six murders, between 2015 and 2017, as part of a Moroccan drugs war, and of being the mastermind behind the hit squad known as the Angels of Death. He is also accused of, in 2016, attempting to blow up a car belonging to Dutch criminal Martin Kok, using a bomb that had the power of 40 hand grenades.

The key witness in the trial, known as Nabil, has been receiving advice from de Vries after the murder of his brother and his lawyer.

It is alleged that Mr Taghi ordered the murder of Nabil's brother in 2018 after his initial testimony.

He also allegedly ordered the murder of Nabil's lawyer, Derk Wiersum, in Amsterdam in September 2019.

The trial, which arises from a three-year international investigation involving more than 100 detectives, is expected to last at least a year.

Updated: July 7th 2021, 12:17 PM