According to the human rights organization he founded, Dries van Agt, the Christian Democrat prime minister of the Netherlands from 1977 to 1982, died by euthanasia “hand in hand” with his wife. They were ninety-three years old.
The Rights Forum broke the story on Friday, stating that the couple passed away on Monday and would be laid to rest in a secret ceremony in the eastern city of Nijmegen.
The non-profit organization released a statement saying, “He died hand in hand with his beloved wife Eugenie van Agt-Krekelberg, the support and anchor with whom he was together for more than 70 years and whom he always continued to refer to as’my girl.'”
The two both had been in fragile health for some time. In 2019, Van Agt suffered a brain hemorrhage while giving a speech at a commemoration event for Palestinians and never fully recovered.
A Christian Democrat from traditional Dutch stock, Van Agt became increasingly progressive after he departed politics, ultimately leaving his party in 2017 over ideological differences with the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal’s approach to Israel and the Palestinians.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who referred to Van Agt as his “great-great-grandfather in office,” spoke highly of the former politician.
“With his flowery and unique language, his clear convictions and his striking presentation, Dries van Agt gave color and substance to Dutch politics in a time of polarization and party renewal,” Rutte said in a statement.
The Dutch royal family also praised him. “He took administrative responsibility in a turbulent time and managed to inspire many with his striking personality and colorful style,” King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix said in a joint statement.
Van Agt was known for his archaic references and grandiose language, as well as his passion for cycling. He was forced to quit that hobby in 2019 after a fall.
Together with the right-wing Liberal Party, the Christian Democrat Appeal governed the Netherlands with Van Agt as prime minister from 1977 until 1981. After elections, he again became prime minister, forming a coalition with the Labor Party and the centrist Democrats 66 in a government that held for a year.
He started speaking out more in favor of the Palestinian people after visiting Israel in 1999. He described his trip experience as a “conversion.”
He established The Rights Forum in 2009; the non-profit group states that it promotes a “just and sustainable Dutch and European policy regarding the Palestine/Israel issue”.
His three children survive him.