Bin Laden cleared in Dutch people's court

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A Dutch TV jury has found Osama bin Laden not guilty of the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Wednesday's conclusion to the show "Devil's Advocate" on Dutch pubcaster Nederland 2, the jury of two men and three women, along with the studio audience, ruled there was no proof bin Laden was the mastermind behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Netherlands, home to "Big Brother" creator Endemol, is known for being on the cutting edge of format-based television. But even by Dutch standards, "Advocate" pushes the envelope.

The show, from Amsterdam production house AVRO, features star defense attorney Gerard Spong standing up for some of the world's worst criminals.

In the latest show, Spong convinced the jury that bin Laden's connection to Sept. 11 was a product of "Western propaganda." The jury also ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove he was the real head of terrorist network al-Qaida. However, the jury did rule that bin Laden is "a terrorist who has misused Islam."

The show will provide ammunition in the heated Dutch debate over immigration and the country's large Muslim minority. The Netherlands saw a sharp rise in anti-immigration and anti- Islamic sentiment after the 2004 murder of Dutch director Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist.

Spong has been at the center of the debate, supporting legal action against anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders. (partialdiff)
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