MPs from the three-party ruling alliance have reacted furiously to comments from Amsterdam police chief Bernard Welten in which he said his officers would not necessarily arrest a woman wearing a burqa, once a ban is brought in.
MPs from the ruling VVD have called on Welten to take back the statement, while Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV said the police chief should ‘pack his things and go’ if he refuses to uphold the law.
During an interview on television, Welten described the issue as ‘extremely complicated’.
‘I think that the woman would be spoken to about the fact she is wearing a burqa. But I do not believe that we will … arrest that woman,’ he said. ‘As a police officer, you have to think… and you have to think hard before taking such a step.’
Hero Brinkman, a former policeman and MP for the PVV told the Telegraaf Welten’s comments are unacceptable. The police should be subject to the government’s will, he said, ‘otherwise we live in a banana republic’.
Welten also said he did not expect the ban, which is part of the new government’s coalition agreement, would actually come into being. ‘The situation still has to be discussed in parliament and then has to get through the senate,’ he said.
Labour MP Achmed Marcouch said the debate is a ‘non-issue’. ‘I have never seen a burqa in Amsterdam,’ the Telegraaf quoted him as saying. Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan, who is technically Welten’s boss, has not yet commented.
Last year, the PVV was forced to re edit a political party broadcast which included footage of the police chief appearing to criticise the city’s then-mayor Job Cohen. Welten said he did not want to be used for political purposes.
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