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Jacobien Vreekamp was withdrawn at the last moment in the wake of a row which erupted on social media over the decision by the prosecution service (OM) not to press charges against performer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.
Let me get this straight: Dutch racists are in an uproar because they found out that the D.A. who decided not to press charges against a Black Dutch rapper for threatening to hurt a fictitious blackface character has previously served on the board of an anti-racist organization?
— Dan Hassler-Forest (@DanHF) September 13, 2020
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’.
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.
Are you fucking kidding me? Wtf heb ik met bizarre extreemrechtse frame te maken dat iedereen reproduceert. Dus nu zijn alle zwarte mensen die tegen racisme zijn verdacht en moet ik in het AD lezen dat de officier die aan mijn zaak werkte eraf gehaald is?https://t.co/ircMEguJzW
— Clareesi (@ClariceGargard) September 13, 2020
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.
En hoe nu verder? Het kostte bijna twee jaar om deze zaak op zitting te krijgen. 9 maanden daarvan vanwege de agenda van de rechtbank. Denkt @Het_OM dat een nieuwe officier zich vanavond even in 25 zaken inleest? Of gaan we aanhouden en nog een jaar wachten?
— Sidney Smeets (@advocaatsmeets) September 13, 2020
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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