The Public Prosecution Service may continue to prosecute corona activist Willem Engel for incitement. The Rotterdam District Court decided this morning in an interim session in the case. “It is precisely here that we should have the debate about freedom of expression,” the court said.
Justice decided to prosecute Engel after the collective declaration of more than 22,000 Dutch people against the Viruswaarheid foreman. Under the leadership of Norbert Dikkeboom, they reported ‘sedition, dissemination of medical disinformation, fraud, statements with a terrorist intent and threat’. For the time being, the Public Prosecution Service is only prosecuting Engel for sedition.
The dance teacher who emerged as one of the leaders of the corona critics during the corona crisis gave his large crowd of followers via social media so-called ‘do-assignments’ in his protest against corona vaccinations, lockdowns and mouth masks. For example, he called for a care home in Goirle to be called after that institution closed its doors to visitors for the second time. According to Engel, he always acts ‘out of love’, but the telephone operators at the nursing home were called flat and verbally abused. “I wish you a slow, painful and lonely death and in combination with serious illnesses,” said one of the callers.
Engel also called for as many photos as possible of the staff of the GGD vaccination buses, ‘for later’, he wrote. With this he implicitly referred to the ‘corona tribunals’ that will come according to it. That call was also followed up, GGD employees sometimes feel so threatened by this that the GGD had to call in the police to restore peace at the injection locations.
Engel was arrested in March, just after he had voted in the municipal elections, and was jailed for two weeks. The lawsuits against Engel, there is another case pending for sedition, usually cause a lot of commotion among Engel’s followers. Due to the expected interest, the Rotterdam court provided a live stream, which can be followed via the internet.
Michael Ruperti, Willem Engel’s lawyer, stated at the beginning of the hearing that the Public Prosecution Service should not be allowed to prosecute the case against Engel at all. According to him, the Rotterdammer is ‘a political human rights activist’ who made use of his freedom of expression. Engel ran for election to the House of Representatives. He calls for love and patience, not violence.” By observing, eavesdropping and arresting Engel, his interests have been harmed, Ruperti says. In addition, according to the lawyer, there is arbitrariness. “The collective declaration of 69,000 people against Minister Hugo de Jonge has not been prosecuted further by the Public Prosecution Service. The farmers who stood in front of the house of the Minister for Nature and Nitrogen are not being prosecuted either.” Engel himself believes that the criminal case is ‘a political prosecution’.
The Public Prosecution Service states that it may indeed prosecute the case. “Freedom of expression is a great asset. But there is a limit and it has been crossed by Willem Engel. It is a criminal offense. A court decision is important in this regard.”
The judge stated that the Public Prosecution Service may indeed prosecute the case. “Freedom of expression is a colossal fundamental right,” said the judge. “That is why we should have a debate about it in this room and not already decide not to hear the case,” said the court. Other arguments from Engel and his lawyer were also rejected. After that decision, the hearing continued on Monday morning.
In the past two years, Engel has also conducted numerous lawsuits against the corona measures, by far the most he lost.
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