Tuesday 22 September 2020

Anger as prosecutor is dropped from racial abuse case in wake of Zwarte Piet row

Photo: Brandon Hartley

The public prosecution department has removed a member of the team taking legal action against 25 Facebook users for spreading hate messages on the eve of the first hearing in the case.

Jacobien Vreekamp was withdrawn at the last moment in the wake of a row which erupted on social media over the decision by the prosecution service (OM) not to press charges against performer and anti-racism campaigner Akwasi in an unrelated case.

Vreekamp signed the letter telling Akwasi that he would not face prosecution for telling a demonstration in June that he would ‘personally kick Zwarte Piet in the face’ if he saw him in November, because the rapper and poet had stated in public that he regretted making them.

The letter was obtained by a far-right website which accused Vreekamp of a conflict of interest because she had served on the board of Amsterdam’s discrimination hotline with another anti-Zwarte Piet campaigner.

Monday’s case focuses on hate messages sent to journalist and campaigner Clarice Gargard after she put live footage of a Kick Out Zwarte Piet demonstration online in November 2018. In total 25 people are being prosecuted for making racist and threatening comments directed at campaigners and at Gargard herself.

The public prosecution department said in a statement that it has ‘full confidence’ in Vreekamp but removed her from the legal team because ‘her presence could detract from the actual case’.

Hate speech

The department, the statement said, was fully aware of her role with the anti-discrimination board, which ended in July after two terms of office.

Vreekamp had been working on the case for two years and it is unclear, as yet, what the impact will be on the trial, which is scheduled to take four days.

Gargard has reacted furiously to the decision to remove Vreekamp from the case, which she and her lawyer, Sidney Smeets, say they found out via the media.

The public prosecution department has dropped the case against five other people who also faced prosecution for verbally attacking Gargard because they apologised for their actions.

Smeets asked the court to delay Monday’s case so Vreekamp’s replacement could be brought up to speed, but the request was denied, broadcaster NOS reported.

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