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THE WORLD

No Anti-Semitism Seen in Belgian Slaying

November 20, 2004|Sebastian Rotella | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — Responding rapidly to fears of extremist violence, Belgian police Friday ruled out anti-Semitism in the shooting death of an Orthodox Jew in Antwerp.

In a separate case, authorities accused a Muslim activist of threatening to kill a senator who had criticized Muslims for not denouncing the Nov. 2 killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in neighboring Netherlands. The senator was one of four Belgian politicians to receive death threats.

Belgium has been on edge because of turmoil in the Netherlands, where an investigation into Van Gogh's slaying uncovered a plot by Islamic extremists to assassinate politicians. The slaying sparked arson attacks on mosques and churches.

After the shooting death Thursday of Moshe Noe, a 26-year-old British citizen who worked at a synagogue in the ethnically mixed port city of Antwerp, police deployed extra patrols to protect the Orthodox Jewish community, the target of numerous anti-Semitic incidents in recent years.

Authorities said they were worried that the slaying and death threats stemmed from extremist violence spilling over from the Netherlands. But the investigation into Noe's death has calmed those fears, authorities said.

"There are no signs that racism was involved," said Dominique Reyniers, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in Antwerp. "Other elements are being investigated."

Robbery was very unlikely, Reyniers said. She would not comment further.

Noe was found with a gunshot wound to the head about 2:20 a.m. Thursday. Investigators are focusing on his private life, a law enforcement official said.

Also in Antwerp on Friday, prosecutors arraigned a convert to Islam accused of threatening Mimount Bousakla, a senator of Moroccan descent known for speaking out against the abuse of women in Islamic communities, Reyniers said.

Police arrested the 38-year-old suspect, whose name was not released, on Thursday. He confessed that he had threatened Bousakla because he was angry over her criticism of Islamic leaders for failing to condemn Van Gogh's slaying, Reyniers said. Van Gogh had recently made a film denouncing the mistreatment of Muslim women.

The suspect has links to the Arab-European League, an Islamic group based in Antwerp that has been accused of inciting youth unrest and anti-Semitism, authorities said.

Meanwhile, federal police continued to investigate a separate death threat against Belgium's justice minister, a former justice minister and a legislator. But there were no signs that the threat against those leaders was from organized extremists, the law enforcement official said.

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