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Dutch cheer at Fortuyn funeral

ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands -- Tens of thousands of mourners cheered as the coffin of murdered politician Pim Fortuyn was carried from his funeral mass to his family's vault.

His white coffin was carried from Rotterdam's 16th-century Laurentius and Elisabeth Cathedral to the roar of the crowds, drowning out the church's bells on Friday.

Among the hundreds of family, friends and politicians attending the Roman Catholic Mass was caretaker Prime Minister Wim Kok and a senior representative on behalf of Queen Beatrix.

Spurred by the massive public outpouring of sympathy for right-wing Fortuyn broadcasters televised the service.

The atmosphere of the procession was at times more like a sporting event or a mass protest than a solemn funeral cortege, The Associated Press reported.

Thousands of people raised their hands in the air, chanting "Pim Fortuyn, Pim Fortuyn," and singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," a support song for the Rotterdam soccer team.

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After the funeral mass in Rotterdam Fortuyn's coffin was taken to the town of Driehuis-Westerveld, on the northwestern Dutch coast, for a funeral service at the family tomb. He will be interred permanently six weeks later in Pordenone near his holiday home in Italy.

Mourners had earlier thrown flowers at his white hearse as the cortege drove through the streets of his hometown.

Fortuyn's right-wing politics angered many in the Netherlands but his assassination has caused equal outrage among both his supporters and opponents.

Campaigning for the May 15 general election is expected to resume on Saturday in low-key mode after having been suspended since Monday's shooting.

Kok decided not to postpone the election, saying democracy would not be dictated to by violence.

Fortuyn, 54, was shot in the head, neck and back as he left a radio station near Amsterdam on Monday.

His party Pim Fortuyn List had been expected to capture about 17 percent of the vote and gain a place in a coalition government in the election thanks to his outspoken policies, direct attack on the political establishment and his flamboyant style.

His death is predicted to boost the chances of his novice and inexperienced candidates. (Full story)

The former sociology professor and columnist, who was openly gay, advocated an anti-immigration policy and attacked Islam for being "backward."

Police have charged a 32-year-old Dutchman with murder. Prosecutors did not release his name, but he was identified by colleagues and by Fortuyn's party as Volkert van der Graaf, an environmental and animal rights activist.

He appeared in an Amsterdam court on Wednesday for a brief hearing during which he was remanded in custody for 10 days.

Prosecutors indicated on Friday that Fortuyn's suspected killer may have been plotting against three other members of his anti-immigration party.

The names of the party members and maps of their neighbourhoods were found in the suspect's car, a spokeswoman for the Amsterdam pubic prosecutor told AP.




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