NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 11:25
Willem Engel has been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of one month, with a probationary period of two years. The leader of the Virus Truth action group was found guilty in one case of sedition, or inciting criminal behavior. He was acquitted of five other charges against him.
The 45-year-old from Rotterdam was prosecuted for a series of corona-related messages on social media. In November, the Public Prosecution Service demanded 180 hours of community service and a suspended prison sentence of three months. “The suspect pushes the boundaries, rubs against them and, in the view of the Public Prosecution Service, crosses them,” the public prosecutor stated at the time.
During the ruling, the judge dealt with six statements made by Engel, mainly tweets. According to the judge, five statements did not constitute incitement, but one statement did. This concerned a call from Engel to participate in a prohibited demonstration on June 28, 2020.
With the sentence imposed, the judge wants to prevent Engel from “talking incendiary” again. The judge also wants to make it clear in this way that it is “not tolerated” to ignore authorities.
The case against Engel focused on the question of where freedom of expression ends and sedition begins. The Virus Truth foreman called on his followers on Twitter, among other things, to photograph employees of ‘prick buses’ or to call a nursing home that was closed to visitors due to a corona outbreak.
The OM stated that Engel urged his followers to commit criminal acts, or consciously accepted the chance of doing so. According to the Public Prosecution Service, employees of the GGD, employees of a nursing home and mayor Bruls of Nijmegen fell victim to the calls. Engel himself, on the other hand, thought that he remained within the boundaries of the law.
The reason for Engel’s prosecution was a report by more than 22,000 people against the Virus Truth leader at the end of 2021. According to initiator Norbert Dikkeboom, Engel was guilty of incitement, spreading medical disinformation, fraud, expressions with a terrorist aim and threat.
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