Man jailed for sending too many letters to city hall

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A man is being held by the city of Dordrecht for harassing the municipality with too many letters demanding information, taxing city resources.

Mustafa Karasahin has violated the terms of a  which allows the city to take him into custody if he sends them more than two letters per month. The court in Dordrecht ruled that for any additional letter or email, he will spend a day in jail, with a maximum incarceration of a year.

Since the court ruling, Karasahin has sent 16 letters over the limit, and will now be expected to spend the same number of days in jail.

The letter-writing was prompted by a conflict about illegally rented rooms three years ago. The municipality says Karasahin was a slumlord. The court first imposed a fine on the man in 2013, which he refused to pay, claiming that he was unfairly judged by the municipality.

In what his lawyer called a form of revenge, the Dordrecht resident has bombarded the municipality with a steady stream of over 3,500 letters, faxes and emails, comprising objections and demands based on the Wet openbaarheid van bestuur (WOB), a law allowing the public to make open government requests.

The municipality says the letter writer admits that his actions are motivated by a desire to frustrate council members and tax the city's resources. Karasahin has been quite successful; the municipality estimates that handling the letters costs approximately 500,000 euros per year.

The city of Dordrecht says it regrets the conflict had to come this far, and that it would rather spend its money on more useful things.

The administrative judge recently ruled that the municipality does not have to respond to such demands from citizens about the WOB. Dordrecht and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) are now advocating a change in the law to prevent further abuse of the system.

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