A group of men who planned and carried out an attack on an emergency refugee centre should be given community service and suspended jail terms, the public prosecution department said on Wednesday.
The 18 men, who range in age from 21 to 35, are accused of storming a sports centre in Woerden, near The Hague on October 9.
Dressed in black and wearing balaclavas, they hurled eggs and fireworks at the building and tore down fences, chanting ‘go home’ and ‘not welcome’, news agency ANP reported. One guard said in a written statement he had ‘never felt so threatened’.
In total, 148 asylum seekers were living in the sports centre at the time and many were left shaken by the attack, the public prosecution department said. All 18 men are considered to be jointly responsible for the incident and are appearing before judges in groups of three.
They had planned the attack in advance and kept in touch using social media such as What’sapp, the department said. ‘We’re going to let those typhoid monkeys know we are going to ruin their lives,’ one message said. ‘Death to Muslims’ and ‘On our way soldiers, its war’ were among other messages exchanged by the gang, according to the Volkskrant.
Woerden’s mayor described the gang after the incident, which was the first major attack on a refugee centre since the sharp rise in numbers, as ‘sick’. Prime minister Mark Rutte also visited the centre the day after the attack and spoke to residents.
Meanwhile, the town of Geldermalsen, where anti-refugee protestors rioted and tried to storm the city hall last year, has now abandoned plans to establish an asylum seekers’ centre within its boundaries altogether.
The town’s mayor Miranda de Vries told a meeting on Tuesday night that the council was wrong not to talk to residents first and apologised for its actions.
Despite saying earlier that alternatives to the plan to house 1,500 refugees would be drawn up, no new concept will be put forward, local broadcaster Omroep Brabant said.
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