MPs from across the political spectrum have urged justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin to explain the arrest of a cartoonist on discrimination charges.
The cartoonist, who operates under the pseudonym Gregorius Nekschot, was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of publishing work which discriminates against Muslims and ‘people with dark skins’. The arrest follows a complaint made against Nekschot in 2005.
In a short statement, Hirsch Ballin said there was no question of there being limits placed on the right to free speech in the Netherlands.
Nekschot, an established cartoonist whose work features in magazine HP/De Tijd amongst others, was released after spending Tuesday night in custody. His house was searched and a quantity of work taken away.
In a statement, the public prosecution department said cartoonists are by nature satirical and often insulting to others. However, Nekschot’s work broke the boundaries of freedom of expression and artistic licence, the department said.
‘We are raising this affair at the highest level,’ Labour MP Ton Heerts told news agency ANP. ‘Taking legal action against a cartoonist goes too far.’
Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration party PVV, accused the public prosecution department of have dictatorial tendencies. The arrest of the cartoonist is ‘outrageous and tasteless,’ Wilders said.
The public prosecution department is currently investigating a number of formal complaints against Wilders, who describes Islam as a backward and violent religion.