Tuesday 05 July 2022

Willem Engel remanded in custody for 14 days, seven social media messages are suspect

A still from the video of Engel’s arrest

Anti-coronavirus rule activist Willem Engel has been remanded in custody for 14 days pending further investigation into messages he posted on social media which, says the public prosecution department, have led to crimes being committed.

Engel, a dance teacher by profession, was arrested in Rotterdam on Wednesday, a day after the Netherlands announced plans to lift the remaining regulations.

Engel was said then to have ‘posted incendiary corona-related messages on social media’ between June 2020 and December 2021.

At Friday’s remand hearing, the public prosecution department said that seven messages posted by Engel were considered to be incitement. ‘These messages led to other people committing criminal offences or incited them to do so,’ the department said.

The department said it would not give any further information until the investigation was completed.

Limits

The department said that while freedom of speech is a fundamental right enshrined in Dutch law, ‘there are limits to that freedom’.

Engel is the founder of campaign group Viruswaarheid. His legal advisor Jeroen Pols said on Twitter on Wednesday the arrest was ‘a frontal attack on critics and opponents’ of the ‘Rutte regime’.

The public prosecution department began an investigation into Engel in January after more than 22,000 people signed a joint complaint, accusing Engel of sedition, spreading medical misinformation, fraud and making threats.

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